First month over

The first month of Winter is over and as they say, it can only get better! Along with the new year comes the prospect of ‘Spring Cleaning’ too. Although I suppose Spring cleaning should happen in Spring it doesn’t necessarily have to, it’s only an expression. I suppose also that traditionally the tidying up of the house was always carried out after the colder months were over, when the inclination to take on the tasks of the year ahead was in people’s minds. As with many traditions folk take them too seriously. I was sort of minding my own business on Saturday afternoon just after lunch when E called me to ask if I could fetch her a small brush, a paint brush would do she said. I went into the cellar to fetch one and took it upstairs where I discovered she had been vacuuming the top stairs and landing. Naturally I asked what she was doing and she replied that she had been vacuuming the room she now has as her craft workshop at the top of the house and she had decided to carry on down the stairs. The brush was to clean the dust from the staircase banister rails and I told her that I would fetch a better brush to do the job as we had one down in the cellar. I went to get it but on my return I took over the job. She meanwhile continued with the vacuuming.

As you can see in the picture above the cast-iron is intricately detailed and was, along with the wooden spindles coated with dust. When we first moved into the house almost thirty years ago we had to remove all 57 of those cast-iron pieces and have them sand-blasted and then painted in the gold/bronze colour you now see. The detail had been painted over so much we couldn’t see it, many of the gaps had been filled in with the numerous coats of paint they had received over the previous years since the house was built and that was in 1877! In order to remove them to have them renovated I had to remove the small piece of wooden moulding at their base and remove the large screws which holds them through the hole in the casting. On their return I had to replace everything before we could begin to decorate the woodwork. There are two flights of stairs and three landings so it took us some time to clean them. The next pictures show the lowest flight from below and above.

We repeat the process every six months or so though the stair carpets get cleaned far more often. E is good at giving me jobs to do! I don’t mind because it gives me something to do when I am not engaged in one of my projects and I know she cannot do many things by herself these days.

Shirley Anne


Back to it for a time

Having recently purchased an Elliptical Cross Trainer there was a need to install a power outlet close to where I intended to locate it, (read yesterdays post). It was Monday morning and I had spent some time on the treadmill before eating breakfast during which time I planned how I was going to install the outlet. After returning upstairs to dress for the day my fist task was to check the cellar’s socket outlet circuit and decide where to break into it. There are regulations to observe of course so simply taking a supply from the nearest outlet is not always possible. There exists an outlet close-by but on the other side of the wall to the where the proposed new one was to be fitted. However because of the regulations I had to take the supply from elsewhere. The next-nearest place was another outlet four metres away. I took a supply from that one. The work itself took a mere forty minutes but I was down in the cellar for three hours! It was all about access and the removal of items no longer wanted causing the work to take so long. While I was carrying out the work I received a call from an old customer asking if I could repair her faulty lights but I had to tell her that I am now retired from my electrical work.  Not however at home! A few days ago  I talked about accumulated waste materials, items of furniture and other paraphernalia stored in the cellar rooms and no longer needed. The two rooms in which I was carrying out the work had plenty of such items. So the work was two-fold, carry out the new installation and remove and tidy up the areas. While I was downstairs I made use of the washing machine too for there were clothes needing to be washed. It is amazing how sidetracked one can be when carrying out a task. I expected that of course, especially working in the cellar. Slowly but surely waste was removed and gardening items like plant pots and other things taken to the greenhouses where they should have been in the first place. Our eldest son used to do a spot of DJ work and was also involved with the church’s audio and sound systems. Consequently he accumulated large speakers, lighting equipment, amplifiers and mixing desks with enough cabling to surround a village! All of this equipment is stored in the cellar and some of it in the boiler room where we now have the gym equipment. That had to be moved too. This is why I spent three hours down there. Finally I got the power outlet installed and ready for use just before lunch. Electrical work it seems is still part of my life for a while.

Shirley Anne

Slowly recycling

English: A contradiction in terms! Whatever go...
A contradiction in terms! Whatever goes through the minds of the people who put up these signs? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I seem to be getting faster in my treadmill regime, running quicker, longer and further and slowly improving all the time. Sounds a contradiction in terms but progress has to be slower rather than quicker, building stamina takes time. It isn’t that my stamina was ever low but having neglected the stricter regime I had until a few months ago it dropped off somewhat. Now it is slowly improving with each session I have. Being an active person exercising has never been a problem for me. If I wasn’t working I would be exercising most of the time. Nothing has really changed over the years, I am still actively working at home now that I have retired from the electrical industry and my exercising continues. My latest trend has been clearing out unwanted items and materials, things we have accumulated over the years and stored in various places around the house. The advantages of having a large house are often outweighed by the inclination to ‘put things away in case they might be useful one day’. Worse still we have cellar rooms which are very handy for storing things then forgetting about them until the rooms become cluttered. When we stripped out the main bathroom three and a half years ago most if not all of the timber that was removed was stored in the cellar. I have always tended to keep timber because it is often useful and has been very useful when I have been engaged in projects at home. Why buy new when there is plenty in storage? Having said that I am now beginning to rationalise my stock of used timber and taking what I no longer need to the recycle centre. My now empty van is worth its weight in gold when it comes to clearing out the house. On Friday morning after much exercising on the treadmill E and I emptied out a bench seat we have which was stocked full of telecom, computer and power cables together with routers, old computers and computer equipment, and power adapters none of which are now of any use and we loaded them into the van. The broken dishwasher was already in the van waiting to be dumped. We had removed a lot of timber from the cellar and loaded that on the van together with bags of old clothes and odds and ends. We drove to the recycle centre and dumped it all. Much still remains to be disposed of but it is a slow process and will take time to complete. It may take months but there is no hurry. I am just happy it is getting done

Shirley Anne

Spring clean?

We Are Ever So Clean
We Are Ever So Clean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the saying goes, Spring cleaning usually gets done in Spring but not on my watch, I do it throughout the year! I live with someone who, shall I say, is often reluctant to tidy around the house these days. Whether that is due to her condition or she has turned lazy I am not sure though she does get stuck in if she sees me doing it, usually when I am working or we have both been working on a project at home. However, if I take it upon myself to simply tidy up because I think it needs it she often doesn’t want to get involved and actually resists me doing it. After going for a walk through the sand dunes because it was far too windy to be on the beach I returned home feeling refreshed and rearing to finish the dining room work. Although I had completed the work of painting the ceiling on the previous day I wanted to check it over and paint over any missed spots and indeed there were a few. So after a quick snack I set about the work. Once that work was completed both E and I dismantled the scaffolding tower and I stored it away in the garage. As I had eaten a late breakfast I wasn’t hungry when E sat down to eat her lunch but I had a drink and sat with her. We have an open cupboard space in the corner of the dining room on which there is a television. We often watch the television when dining. Above are a couple of shelves on which were stored all sorts of things from a dismantled hamster cage and accessories belonging to our youngest son, vases, pictures, boxes with new items having never been used sealed inside them. One was a large ‘slow cooker’, another a coffee machine both it seems had been won by E entering one of her competitions. She is always winning prizes. For some time I had wanted to tidy the area as it was an eyesore. I mentioned to E that I was going to tidy the space whilst she was out shopping and she immediately went on the defence making it obvious to me that she didn’t want me doing it. She thinks I will throw things away without consulting her but she has known me long enough to know I wouldn’t do that. The space got tidied and only rubbish was thrown out. It would be better if I fitted a door over the space so that it becomes a proper cupboard but the television would need a new home. Maybe I’ll think about that one.

Shirley Anne

Old wood and nylon stockings

At a bit of a loose end on Friday afternoon I began searching for something useful to do. Recently I had cleared away a lot of debris which was lying on the boiler room floor in the cellar where we have set up some gymnasium equipment. At the time all I was able to do was to sweep the floor and follow that up with a mop and bucket. What was really needed downstairs in the cellar rooms was a dedicated vacuum cleaner, not one we would use for the upstairs rooms. We have owned an old ‘Aquavac’ cleaner for many years but somewhere along the way it has lost its filter. The machine needs the filter when using it to suck up dust and other solid things but the filter has to be removed when sucking up water. Somebody used the machine to suck up water years ago but didn’t remove the filter beforehand. Anyway the machine ended up in storage in the garage collecting its own dust after we purchased other vacuum cleaners. It can still be used without the filter for sucking up water of course and it can also be used outdoors where it doesn’t need a filter. I wanted to see if I could use it in the cellar so I used several pairs of old nylon stockings to make a temporary filter and it worked just fine but I think we’ll have to source a proper filter at some point.

English: A historic Vacuum cleaner on display ...
A historic Vacuum cleaner on display at the IXL museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have done so many domestic jobs at home resulting in the cellar rooms becoming filled with old timbers and odd pieces of wood, some of which can remain but much of it needs dumping. I decided to start collecting it together and place it outside behind the garage ready for me to load it into the van and take it to the tip. It will take me some time before all the wood is sorted but at least I have started the work. I just needed something to do. There are plenty of old things and accumulated items in the cellar rooms which we no longer need or want so as and when I feel at a loose end I don’t need to remain bored, I can collect them and take them to the tip!

Shirley Anne

I did and…

In contrast to yesterday’s post I said I would get on with the electrical work and I did. It was a slow start for me on Tuesday as I began the work at ten-thirty. There were several things I had to do before I could make any progress on diverting the supply to the existing power outlets in the garage. This garage we erected in 1989 about a year after we had moved in, maybe less, and the wiring for a light and a twin power outlet was taken from the basement house wiring. I rewired the house in 1988/9. Different electrical regulations were in force at that time so the wiring was compliant to those regulations. Since those days the garage supply, though still wired the same way, was brought under the protection of circuit breakers and RCD units by myself. Added to that I had installed two outdoor electrical supplies each fed from a dedicated RCD unit and circuit breakers. One was fitted in the boiler room and the other was installed in the other garage. The board provides the supply for that garage and for the other circuits at that end of the garden, the patio for instance. The unit in the boiler room supplies a couple of power outlets and some lights at the opposite end of the garden behind the first garage. For a time I connected the power outlets in the first garage (the one in which my van is parked and the subject of this post) to the same RCD unit. Today, Tuesday as I write this, I have removed the supply to the outlets and re-supplied them from one of the house distribution boards instead as there was a spare circuit breaker I could dedicate for them. Ideally I could have installed a small RCD board we call here a ‘garage unit’ in the garage itself but because there is the same protection wiring it the way I have I chose not to use one. It would be an unnecessary expenditure. Most of the electrical work was therefore carried out in the cellar (basement) rooms as I had to run a cable to the main supply units through those rooms. Having done that work I ran out of cable to actually wire for a new outlet near to the garage door. I would have to do that small job another day, probably Wednesday after I purchase the cable. This is the board I fitted before doing the rest of the work….

The lighting switch was originally directly on the brick wall. The new power outlet beneath it is the new one waiting to be wired into the existing circuit. I had to do a lot of cleaning and clearing out of rubbish as well as moving some things to the other end of the garage in readiness for the new door to be installed in a couple of weeks time. Here are some pics of the existing door mechanisms. The motor in the top picture pulls a loop of chain similar to those on bicycles which is attached to the top of the door..

The tracks in which the doors wheels run can be seen with the huge springs and their pullies above them. Click on pictures to magnify. The ladder in the last picture has been there for many years and has never been used. It was left by someone but nobody can remember who! It could be used but we have other ladders which are in better condition. You can see in the last picture the old garage door post with the cream-coloured painted top which was left as am extra support for the wall when the garage was constructed around it.

Shirley Anne


The clean up

I have worked as an electrician and also a maintenance engineer for almost fifty-four years. During my working life I have conscientiously cleaned up after myself except in instances where it wasn’t necessary because someone else was doing it. I have noticed throughout my career that certain ‘trades’ were more conscientious than others. I won’t divulge which for fear of upsetting someone but I will say that on the whole I found electricians to be the tidiest. Not all were though. When I have had people working in my own house, and that has been quite rare because I have tended to undertake most of the work myself. I have never been shy in attempting anything I felt I could do myself. It builds confidence in one’s ability apart from saving to pay others to do it. Naturally I have had to tidy up after myself at home unless E volunteered thereby enabling me to get more done. I always tidy up when working for someone else, I consider it a part of the job. On Friday I mentioned that we’d had a new carpet fitted and that I vacuum-cleaned it once the fitters had left. There is a prime example of others who don’t think tidying up is a part of their work even though it was they who had made the mess in the process of cutting and laying the carpet. On Saturday the team who were dismantling the remainder of the scaffolding returned and took away all their equipment to reveal the area covered in builder’s debris, mortar, broken bits of tiles and stones and sand all over the place. In the mixing of the mortar the builder had used a red dye and small pieces of it lay on the paths. They should have cleaned up the area  but it was left for me to do. As I swept the path pieces of the dye broke up and turned the water lying there to turn red. It was raining but not hard enough to wash it all away so I had to hose it myself. Patio Flowerbed 13It took a long time but finally you would never know the building work had taken place. Actually all the work was upon the roof so you wouldn’t notice anyway. The garden has been restored to what it was though the grass that was beneath the scaffolding’s footings (a plank) will take a few weeks to recover. Nature will take care of that.

Shirley Anne

A clean out

Laundry equipment within a room
Laundry equipment within a room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Sunday afternoon as I write this the rain is falling heavily as the country gets bombarded with the aftermath of the tropical storm ‘Bertha’ which has made its way across the Atlantic Ocean over the last week. As it happens we on the northwest coast here in Southport are on the outer edge of the eye as it passes north and eastward on its journey but nevertheless there is still plenty of wind and rain. Apparently as it moves toward Scotland it is getting more active. I am resting after my lunch as I write this but this morning I decided to do a spot of tidying up and cleaning out of the passageway and one of the rooms in the cellar ready for when our chest freezers arrive, hopefully this week. A number of things cluttered the passageway or hallway, tea chests, cardboard boxes, a couple of large mirrors (we seem to have lots of mirrors down in the cellar) and among other things a fire-surround or mantlepiece. I’m not sure where that was planned to be installed but no doubt there will be a use for it somewhere. A couple more things were taken out of the hallway and stored in one of the other rooms. The ‘laundry’ room as we call it has a washing machine in it together with a small spin-dryer, a small freezer and of course the large chest freezer we have been having problems with, which is why we purchased two slightly smaller chest freezers to replace it. (See recent post). There were many more things in the room which needed storing properly and some things which needed removing altogether. I rearranged things to create the space for the new freezers and in the process moved the old chest freezer away from the wall. As I did that the unit became noisy again, just as we found it a couple of weeks ago but then the noise stopped. I had a feeling then that perhaps it was only the motor/compressor’s mountings that were the problem. I think I was right for since moving the unit all the noise has ceased. I am therefore convinced that there is little wrong with it so when the new ones arrive I will tell the delivery guys not to bother taking the old one away. No doubt they will be grateful for that. It means however that we will have three large chest freezers now! Providing of course that the old one continues to operate. It must be around forty years old now but fridges and freezers should last that long and the reason for that? Well the motor is immersed in oil and the unit, if not leaking, remains sealed from the atmosphere. Usually though with modern units things seem to go wrong earlier, thermostat, refrigerant leaks are the main culprits. Now that we’ll have three units and a small one down there we are going to have to plan exactly where to put them which will mean my having to install extra power outlets as the existing ones are all in the same place. As it happens this is one of the rooms we have carpeted but we may decide to remove it in favour of the sandstone blocks beneath which lie in all the other rooms bar one which was screeded over when we moved in years ago because it was so uneven. That room became a storage room for dry-packaged and tinned foodstuffs and is where we rebuilt the old kitchen units having refurbished the kitchen years ago too. The laundry room is also fitted with a sink unit, one that I am determined to replace as it is falling apart, not literally, just looks that way! It is a mess and it needs replacing. There is also what passes as a wall-mounted storage unit which needs attention or removal too. There is plenty of work down there to keep me occupied for weeks, remembering too that the room we wish to turn into a toilet accessible only from the garden is presently accessed through the laundry. Once that doorway is bricked up there will be more available wall space in the laundry itself. I will endeavour to make that a priority as soon as I am free to do the work. For the time being the laundry looks far better than it did a couple of hours ago, maybe not as nice as in the picture but it may be one day.

Shirley Anne

Some jobs are easy

Kim and AggieI went to do a job some four miles away from home on Monday morning but was soon back home, in fact I returned well within an hour. A simple enough task to disconnect some wiring to socket outlets that were no longer needed and to remove three fluorescent light fittings replacing one of them with another fitting of a different type. It took me longer travelling than it actually took doing the work! Not all my jobs are as easy so it was a pleasant way to start the week. It was also a warm and ‘sticky’ day, that is the humidity was high, not really suited for working outside. Again therefore I gave up on that idea. I am usually dressed for work during the week unless I’ve decided to take the day off so that I am available should anyone call. Whilst I am waiting for someone who needs my services I look for things I can do at home. I have a vanity unit in my bedroom, basically a hand basin on top of a cabinet. One day I plan to replace it with a modern unit but for the time being it serves its purpose. It’s not that old but I guess it was installed in the 70’s when the person who owned the house had the room refurbished with built-in wardrobes. Those wardrobes need new handles, an easy thing to replace when I put my mind to it. I would like the vanity unit replacing though as the hand basin is made of fibreglass and is champagne in colour. It is hard to keep clean as it stains easily. Eventually like I say, I will replace it with a white glazed porcelain version the same as we have in the bathroom. I was in my room and noticed how dirty the windows had become both inside and out. The dirt is more noticeable when the sun shines directly upon them. Out came the cleaning equipment and soon I had them crystal-clear and it was whilst I was using the vanity unit to clean the equipment I noticed just how dirty and stained it had become too. I do wipe it down every day but now and then it needs more than that so I got out the propriety cleaning liquid and gave it a good clean, however there were still limescale marks around the bases of the taps (faucets) and elsewhere that the cleaning liquid wouldn’t shift. To clean away any limescale deposits requires the use of an acid and the best acid to use is vinegar! The acid softens the limescale making it very easy to clean off. I also noticed that the water in the basin didn’t drain away as fast as it should so I removed the water trap beneath the basin and cleaned that out too as it was clogged with limescale, though it didn’t need vinegar to remove it. I also had to replace the sealing gasket (actually a rubber ‘O’ ring of which I have a large selection) as it leaked when I first replaced it in position. Soaking a blocked-up shower head in a solution of vinegar and water for a few hours will make it as good as the day it was first used. There are many household things which can be used for cleaning without the need to buy specialist cleaning liquids, it’s just a matter of knowing what cleans what. For those of my readers who live in the UK they will remember the two ‘cleaning ladies’ program on the television. Their names were Kim and Aggie and the pair of them came up with some very useful methods of cleaning around the house, often saving the need to replace things because they seem impossible to clean. Some jobs are easy, some are easy with a little know-how and it still wasn’t lunchtime when I’d finished. I was even able to write this post!

Shirley Anne

Up in the air!

Moss closeup on abandoned manmade materials

Another free day from my electrical work, at least until late afternoon. The weather forecast was for rain later in the day but dry and reasonably calm until then. I had finished using the scaffolding tower on Monday but had left it where it was at the side of the house knowing that at some point during the week I might get the chance to wheel it round to the rear and clean the sloping roof beneath my bedroom window as it was covered in moss. A golden opportunity then to clear the moss whilst I had the time. Despite the tower being 7 metres tall it only just reaches past the roof line at that point. I was hoping it might have been a little higher. The gutter was at chest height and I could have raised the platform to the next rung to give me the extra height but that wouldn’t have left much margin for safety so I worked with it at the height I had left it. It took some time to get rid of the moss because the roof tiles have a rough surface giving the moss something to get its roots into and I know I haven’t been able to remove  every last piece. I shall probably have to purchase some proprietary remover to destroy the spores. Caustic solutions could be used but they are not totally successful in removing everything and can be hazardous to use. I have a product in mind to purchase and I can apply it through my bedroom windows without having to rebuild the tower which E and I have dismantled and stored in the garage. I couldn’t have removed the bulk of the moss through the windows and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to clean out the gutter either. Whilst the tower was in that position I was able to do some filling in on the brickwork where the mortar had either worn away or had been damaged when other work was being carried out during the last few years. The tower has proved useful thus far and I’m sure it will be worth the money I spent buying it. We had a late lunch before E went out to do the weekly shopping with her mum. I was going to fit the vanity unit and connect it to the water pipes and drain but I received a call to do a small electrical job and by the time I had returned it was late afternoon. I didn’t feel much like starting work in the bathroom at such a time so I left it for another day, probably tomorrow!

Shirley Anne

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Clean sweep

When I was at the doctor’s surgery last week there was a guy in the car park carrying out a valet on a vehicle owned by one of the staff. He was doing it when I arrived and was still doing it half an hour later. I chatted with him and found out that he had suffered a couple of heart attacks and now cleans vehicles instead of his previous job which I didn’t get a chance to ask about. He was starting afresh in life, having a clean sweep as it were. I asked him what he would charge me for cleaning the cab of my van, which is like having half the interior of a large saloon car cleaned. The outside doesn’t need cleaning and in any case I do that myself in about twenty minutes and the carriage area, that is were all my electrical stuff is stored gets a clean out once a year by myself. He told me he would charge £20 which includes shampooing the carpets and seats. He is coming this morning (Tuesday) to do the job.

 Every so often I have a clean-out of my bedroom and in other rooms of the house (although to a lesser extent). I think it is a good idea to have a good clean-out every so often. It is quite amazing what rubbish I find I have accumulated after a short time. My office, that is the room I use for an office, gets cleaned of out-of-date paperwork, invoices etc. although I have to keep the last five years worth of documents for tax purposes. It still leaves a lot of paper to store away. Cardboard boxes keep it under control. When I look back at my life it has always been one in which I have regularly had a clean sweep because it has always been necessary!

Shirley Anne