Stopped from gardening that is. I had a couple of electrical jobs to do on Tuesday morning (21st) though the first one turned out to be only an advisory visit for which I levied no charge. The work to correct the customer’s problems would be too much for me to do. I have worked for the customer before but only to do small jobs, basically what I advertise I do. As the house wasn’t far away and as I was there only a few minutes I didn’t ask for payment, though it was offered. I drove on to the second job which turned out to be more awkward in its execution than I had expected but it paid well. The house was occupied by an elderly couple and the man, who was 86 years old, was bed-ridden due to a physical deterioration but who was also suffering with dementia. He just lay there in the rear room watching television whilst his wife, a few years younger, did all the running around. She was however in good health which was just as well. My work involved replacing lighting fittings and to check out a loose wall power outlet (as shown above). The lighting part of the work was the troublesome bit, wall-mounted units, but as usual I managed. The power outlet was supplying the power to the television and to the bed on which the man lay. It powered the vibrating mattress on which he lay. It vibrated to relieve the pain in his inactive muscles. When I see things like this I am not upset but a little saddened. I realise however that it could happen to any of us. I get annoyed when I see people moaning and groaning about their problems when there are others who are unable to do anything about theirs. I think people who think everything should go their way all of the time are missing the point, at least they are in a position to do something about it if it means so much to them. There are always going to be people worse off than ourselves and we should be grateful for what we have got, especially good health. It was around noon when I drove back home in the glorious sunshine. The day was also very windy however with rain by late afternoon to follow and much the same had been forecast for Wednesday. It would be Friday and Saturday before I could consider working in the garden as those days promised to be dry and sunny. I would be dining out on Thursday with E together with my youngest brother and his wife. Thursday would be a less favourable day for working in the garden anyway.
Monday morning was a bit of a waste of time. I wrote about it in yesterday's post. I had just about finished eating my lunch, the remains of the chicken and vegetable stew which I had made on Saturday when I received a call asking for help regarding a faulty electrical cooker or cooker circuit.
Strange as it was I had to drive past the house I had visited in the morning but much further beyond to a small village another three or four miles along the road. The couple were glad that I had even bothered to call as they had been let down by others. The guy was a fit 78-year-old who looked much younger than his years but he and his wife had just returned from the hospital where a problem he had could be investigated so he remained in the lounge resting whilst his wife saw to my needs. Evidently the hospital medics had discovered a cancerous growth inside the guy’s abdomen but assured him that once removed all should be alright. I wished him well. In the meantime I investigated the fault. The fault lay inside the local isolating switch but that switch was located in the most awkward place you could think of, beneath the adjacent kitchenunit. It was also located behind the rear panel of that unit and sunk into the wall as far to the left and as high as it was possible beneath the worktop. Totally impossible to disconnect from the short cables behind it. Before I could do anything I first had to remove articles on the shelf and the shelf itself and then the rear panel to gain access to the switch. I had to cut the cables from the switch to remove it. It was then I discovered that three of the kitchen power sockets were connected to the cooker circuit which is totally against the electrical regulations. The one beneath the worktop became disconnected when I severed the cables from the switch but the other two had to be left in circuit as the wiring was concealed behind tiled walls. I extended the supply cable and the cable to the oven/grill unit and connected them into a new switch I surfaced-mounted within the kitchen unit. I was able to supply the cooker hood (air filtration unit) and the gas hob ignition plugs using a small extension lead plugged into the new switch unit which had a power outlet in it. Of course I pointed out the non-conforming wiring to the customer so that she can exercise caution when using the wrongly connected outlets together with the cooker when it is in use. The circuit breaker will trip anyway if too much power is demanded. I was informed that in the Spring they plan to have a new kitchen installed anyway so the electrical installation can be sorted out at the same time. The couple have only been resident in the house for two years and are only just now discovering electrical problems. This is always a problem when moving into a previously used older property. You can never tell what condition the wiring is in beforehand. Tests do not always reveal poor wiring unless the tests are done thoroughly.
In the same vein as yesterday’s post I write this one. It is finally the end of the week for my electrical work but already I have two jobs lined-up for next week with a possible third when they call me. I won’t say I am not sorry it is Friday (as I write this) because the week has been somewhat hectic at times. Yesterday, that is Thursday, the phone never seemed to stop ringing and even today at least in the morning it was just the same. Funny how and why people insist on calling me during the day asking for my services when I’m sure they know I will be at work. In emergencies, yes, I agree they’ve no choice but usually these jobs have been on the caller’s mind for some time and in that case they should call me in the evening. People do what people do but it just takes a little forethought. Three times I made the attempt to connect the first of several lighting fittings I was installing in someone’s house when my phone rang. One was one of those nuisance calls but the others could have waited till a more convenient time. It seems to happen more just as I have reached the top of a ladder! I did two jobs on Friday, in the first house it was to simply change a faulty power outlet and in the second house to install several new lighting fittings. I received another call asking if I could check a ceiling fan and light combination in a conservatory.
I told them I would call there on my way back home. I had driven less than a half-mile from the second house when I was again called by someone asking if I could replace some lighting units on the exterior of their garage. Had they called another minute later I would have by then driven past their road. Such timing, yet had they called me the night before…..well you see what I mean. I went there but arranged to do the work the following week as I was on my way to look at that faulty fan and besides which the customer hadn’t as yet purchased the lights she wanted me to fit. She had been under the impression that I would make the purchase. That is something I would never do unless the person was unable or incapable. People who make such requests don’t realise they wold be paying for my time apart from the fact that I wouldn’t know what their tastes in fittings and fixtures are anyway. I think she had a cheek to ask but there you go. I drove off to the house with the faulty fan/light and discovered that the fan wasn’t at fault but only the lights. They could neither be switched manually nor remotely using the remote control unit. There was obviously a fault in the on-board control unit. As I do not carry out repairs to such things or to any fixed or portable appliance I referred them to someone else. I haven’t the time nor the inclination to source parts for the numerous pieces of equipment I am sometimes asked to repair. Those jobs are done by specialists who have the resources and the time and often have a dedicated workshop. You would be surprised at the amount of people who think my little van is some sort of ‘Tardis‘ (Dr. Who fans will know what I mean), far larger on the inside and full of all kinds of stock.
Not so I’m afraid. A girl who works for my local newspaper and with whom I arrange for my advertisement to be published called to ask if I was going to purchase some more advertising space. I was buying thirteen weeks of space but recently changed that to ten weeks instead. As I write this I am in my final week of the last ten but I had planned not to renew until the beginning of November when the price increases in order to make accounting easier but also because I wanted a couple of weeks rest. No doubt that won’t happen though, the rest I mean because usually I still get a few calls. If they are but a few I will do them. I am now faced with a lovely weekend free from electrical work………….the garden awaits……………
On Thursday morning I went to do an electrical job for the lady who keeps turtles (see yesterday’s post) but when I got there I saw that the work she had asked me to do wasn’t really necessary if she was to connect her equipment the way I suggested and in the process save herself unnecessary expense. I could see that she had already spent a lot of money for the shed and the furniture in it apart from the electrical installation that had been done by another electrician. For some apparent reason the guy who had done the work simply walked away because he’d had enough working there. He had made an excellent job of what he had done but the lady told me that he had put some of the power outlets in the wrong places. To be fair to him the furniture hadn’t yet been installed as she manufactured and assembled it herself later. She had also made a good job of the work. All she needed was an extra power point strategically positioned to accommodate her needs so that is what I did. She then asked me to look at several other jobs she wanted doing elsewhere but I declined. This is typical of some people who get you to their premises to do a single job and then they begin to move the goal posts. I will only take on extra work if it suits me. Anyway I finished the work and returned home. It was only 10.30 so I decided to do more work on the lamp-post project. The first picture shows the switch isolator box and the black connector box I had fitted the day before.
It was a very windy day on Thursday and at times it was a nuisance working outside but I plodded on. The first task was to make the final connection to the equipment I had installed the day before. The power outlet box I was connecting the cable to needed re-securing to the wall as it had become loose so I had to do that before connecting the cable. My next task was to fix the lamp-post’s base unit but that didn’t work out as I had expected. Eventually I had it secured to the concrete before taking a short break for lunch. After lunch I assembled the rest of the lamp-post and its internal wiring and placed it on the base. Once it was secure I made the connections in the base and that was it, finished, well more or less. There was some cosmetic work to do around the concrete base which I hoped I could do the following day.
………..especially at my age! Retirement, semi-retirement, couple of days a week or even a couple of hours a day should be my lot at my age. Somehow I can’t manage any of them. There are times though when all I want to do is well, nothing but I soon get restless doing that. I did one small electrical job about twelve miles from home and returned by ten o’clock. I had a larger job scheduled to follow but it was cancelled at the last-minute and at the time of writing I am not sure whether it is a permanent cancellation or not as they didn’t explain in their text message. A bit naughty I thought for not informing me one way or the other but that’s the way some people are I suppose. It didn’t matter because I could do some work in the plot. I donned a pair of overalls and boots and began cleaning out the small internal annex to the garage which stands next to the plot and followed that by clearing the pathway and the large pile of root balls that had been stacked in the corner of the plot which can be seen in a few recent posts. I then took the cement mixer stored in the other garage and put it behind the garage next to the plot for use when I had the time to begin laying bricks. The next thing was to stack some of the bricks recently purchased on the plot in readiness to build. Both the mixer and the bricks are covered with plastic sheets just in case it rains though that is unlikely for a few days. By now it was one o’clock and time for lunch. I had not long finished lunch and someone called asking if I would do a couple of small electrical jobs in a town twelve miles away. It was after two o’clock but I decided to take the work. It was too hot to work in the plot and too late to start mixing mortar anyway. It was an old lady for whom I had worked before and she wanted an extra power outlet installing and her bathroom towel heater checking over as it had ceased to work. It was five o’clock before I left after completing the work. So much for part-time working! After my evening meal I spent an hour watering the front and rear gardens! I don’t know how I do it all but thankfully I can.
So Saturday came along and although I didn’t really feel like working both E and I decided to finish the electrical alterations in the bedroom we are refurbishing. We now have all the wiring in place in readiness to convert the existing one-way switching circuit for the main ceiling light when the bedside units are fitted as well as the power circuits for the outlets which will be either side of the bed. One power outlet had been fitted last week but two more were to be installed above where the low-level units will be fitted together with the television antenna socket. Those are now installed and working. I had to remove the last power outlet which had been part of the original installation in order to re-arrange the circuits and connect the new outlets. The main part of the work we are doing ourselves is the painting and decorating and E has made great progress in that direction having applied an undercoat to most of the woodwork in the room. The ceiling needs a little repair in places and then it can be painted and those areas of the walls which will be covered by the new furniture will be painted too because they will remain on view inside the units when they are built. The rest of the walls will be painted after the furniture has been installed as will the fitting of a new picture rail by myself. Aside from the break we took for lunch we worked pretty much all day until it was time for our evening meal. The guys doing the steps outside the front door didn’t turn up for work as it was Saturday and I didn’t expect them to. They will resume on Monday morning and I will be at my electrical work on Monday too. My only rest time will have been Sunday as I refuse to do any work on a Sunday and the way I am feeling right now as I write this on Saturday evening I couldn’t work even if I wanted to! Chiselling out brick walls to install the metal back-boxes for the power outlets really takes its toll on the muscles but a good soak in a hot tub for a while will ease the aches and pains which is what I shall be doing before bedtime.
Try as I may to cut down on work I am finding it difficult sometimes especially when some people have great expectations of me. This past week I worked at the same address twice and all the work was in the kitchen either changing existing switches or power outlets or moving them in the process and replacing light units beneath cupboards and on the ceiling. No new circuitry was involved just simply rearranging one or two things. The first visit was on Tuesday followed by the second on Thursday after the customer had decided they wanted more work doing. No sooner as I had finished the extra work on Thursday when I was asked to install a new cooker hood where none existed once they had purchased it. Sadly I could have done part of the work which would be required whilst I was there on Thursday thereby making the installation of the hood easier when that time arrived. I agreed I would do the work which will probably take place this coming week. I don’t mind the frequent visits as each time I am there it is only for two or three hours and besides, the pay is good! However as soon as I had agreed to do the work I was asked if I would carry out some wiring installations at another house which means lifting floorboards and coverings and channelling out walls and such. I had to draw the line by refusing that work having found out what that work really entailed. It would be far too much to take on board when I am trying to do less rather than more. Too much is expected of me at times and although I know I can do the work offered I have to be sensible and say no sometimes. One guy phoned me a few nights ago asking if I could basically rewire his kitchen power outlets whilst at the same time install a few more. Now this work can take days rather than a few hours and is something I am not prepared to do at my age but the guy insisted that he would install the wiring and all I would have to do is make the connections. However it isn’t that simple for I would have to oversee his work and ensure he was doing it correctly and using the correct methods too. I might as well do it myself than educate someone else to do it especially if they are not qualified in any way. When I politely asked him to employ another electrician as I no longer take on such involved work he tried to persuade me otherwise. Maybe he just wanted a female electrician around the house. I wouldn’t mind so much but my advertisement does indicate that I only do small jobs these days. Great are the expectations of those asking of my services.
It’s all go, go, go here at Minkyweasel Electrical Services (LOL). I haven’t stopped working except for coffee breaks, even missed lunch a few times but I have been able to satisfy the needs of all my customers. All but one that is and I will get to that in a minute. My first job of the day on Tuesday had been scheduled last week and at that time was the only one I had received for the whole of this week. That of course didn’t last and I have had quite a few since. The work I was to do was simple enough but it just took a long time to execute and to add to my problems my customer left the house in order to go to the gym leaving me alone in the house with her invalided husband. This meant I couldn’t ask how I should proceed if I hit a problem which prevented me from carrying out the work as I had been asked. I did hit such a problem and had to rely on her husband to accept my alternative suggestions in the hope she would be happy with the decision. Fortunately on her return two hours later she was very happy with what I had to do and in fact, as she said, it was better than she had hoped. It is usually all about the cost, people not wanting to spend more than they have to but sometimes there is little choice. Anyway it took me almost five hours to complete all the work she had originally asked me to undertake over the phone as well as other work she presented me with on my arrival at the house including a trip to the supplier some miles away. It was around 2.30 before I could drive to the second job of the day at another house ten miles away. This job was far simpler and involved fitting replacement lighting units. Unfortunately the lady had purchased the wrong lamps for the fittings so I didn’t get to see my work all lit up! I made sure they were ready and working to receive the correct lamps when she gets them. So many people forget to purchase lamps when buying new fittings but few purchase incorrect ones when they do remember. It happens. By now it was dark and my final job for the day was to check why a power outlet wasn’t working in an apartment 150 metres from my house! A lady and her daughter had just moved into the top floor apartment in a large Victorian house which has been converted into an apartment block. There are quite a number of these type of buildings in my home town. Anyway I got to the top floor and was directed to the power outlet. Sure enough there was no power. I removed the unit from its metal recessed box and saw that the cable supplying it was too small in size. I removed another outlet nearby and discovered the same. I had expected to see a cable ready for connecting the other outlet which simply needed connecting but none was there. It appears that the circuit has been incorrectly installed with the wrong sized cables and it will need rewiring. A major job. I didn’t levy a charge for having a look and had to leave her to get it rewired by someone else as I no longer undertake such work. She may be able to get the work done for free as she has been sold the apartment on the understanding that the electrical circuits have been checked and in working order. I hope she can anyway.
Some old people put themselves in danger because they forget things or they do things without due consideration for the consequences of their actions. I came across one such incident on Tuesday morning. A couple of days earlier an elderly gentleman asked if I was available to change some power outlets in his house but as it was a weekend and specifically the request was for Sunday I declined. I was then asked if I was available on Monday but I had work scheduled for that day too. I arranged to do the work therefore on Tuesday morning. There was no urgency to have the work done as I expected that the original outlets were still in use. However, when I arrived on Tuesday morning I discovered that not only were the old power outlets disconnected and removed so also were several lighting switches. The power supply had not been switched off! That meant all the bare and exposed wiring was still live! It had been that way for a few days as the old guy had evidently removed them himself but why did he then leave the power switched on? One or two lights and power outlets were still in use and that was why he didn’t switch it off. How he managed to avoid electrocuting himself is an absolute miracle but that was only because of the RCD trip switches in the supply panel. It took me about three hours to sort things out and to re-site one of the outlets because of a lack of wire to reconnect it. One had to be removed as it sat directly above his cooker! The old guy’s son appeared shortly after I had arrived and was somewhat helpful. When I had finished the work he told me that now he could rest assured that his dad’s environment was now electrically safe. I thought I had seen it all during my years in the business but a house full of exposed live wiring was a first. I have seen incidences of perhaps one or two bare live conductors but never a house full! I drove off to the pub for lunch.
The much-needed rain started to fall on Thursday night so when I arose on Friday I expected it to be still raining and it was, in fact it rained well into the afternoon. I didn’t therefore need to water the gardens. I was lying there in bad fully awake and it was about seven-thirty. I had a good night’s sleep and had a bit more sleep than usual but there was no hurry to get up. I lay there in prayer but at eight o’clock the house phone rang. I picked up the receiver and the caller, who was calling on behalf of his neighbour, a very elderly man, needed someone to sort out an electrical problem which kept cutting off the supply. He asked if he had disturbed me from my bed to which I responded with a ‘yes’ but was about to get up anyway. How folk seem to know I am lying down in bed when they call so early is a mystery but I suppose my voice will sound slightly different when lying down. It wasn’t that I had been awakened by the call for I had been awake for over a half-hour. Anyway I told him I would be there as soon as I had dressed. The apartment is in my village and only half a mile or so away. I was there around thirty-five minutes later. As you might have guessed I can wash, dress and apply my make-up very quickly if I have to. The first thing I had to do once there was to remove all appliances from the circuit and isolate the cables at source. As it happened there was an extra cable in the circuit breaker which supplied an isolated outlet which wasn’t faulty and I left it connected so that I could connect the tropical fish tank and maintain the fishes’ environment for I had no idea how long it would take me to repair the fault. I also connected the refrigerator to an outlet on the cooker control switch in order to keep the food inside fresh. Now I could get down to the business of locating the fault on the power outlet ‘ring main’. Some countries don’t use ring circuits for their power outlets but wire each outlet independently to its own breaker at source. A ring circuit is just that, two cables wired into the same circuit protector which form a continuous ring on which all the outlets are connected. See above drawing. Each of the two systems has its advantages and disadvantages. With a ring circuit one has to split the ring at some point and test each ‘half’ to see which remains at fault and then by splitting the faulty section in the same way it is simply a process of diminishing elimination until the fault is pinpointed. It can take hours or minutes depending on the layout. In this case the fault lay behind the refrigerator and in fact was the outlet itself. Although it looked alright visually there was an internal fault shorting the live and earth terminals. I replaced the outlet, replaced all those I had removed in the process, tested the whole circuit and then reinstated the supply. Everything back to normal. The old guy was so grateful that I had called so promptly as was his neighbour and he kept on saying things like ‘You are doing very well girl’ and ‘I’m in safe hands aren’t I girl’, occasionally calling me by name. ‘Girl’ is a local expression used by people from Liverpool and indeed the old guy was born and originally lived there, just like myself. People might say ‘Alright girl’ or ‘Alright luv’ when greeting someone. It is simply a common expression of the area. I was home by ten-fifteen and sat down to enjoy a late breakfast. No sooner had I finished when the old guy phoned me and asked if I could supply him with a receipt for the work as he thought he might be able to recover some of the cost from his landlord. Normally I don’t give out receipts unless asked when once I wrote one out for every job no matter how small. Had he asked whilst I was there I would have given him one but I wrote one out and walked there to hand it to him. I took the opportunity to walk into the village and make a deposit in my bank. My umbrella had one of its rare outings for it was still raining.