At last

Saturday (17 th) ended up being a busy day for me though it wasn’t all about the decorating down in the cellar. I wanted to complete the construction of the cupboard surround for the boiler but I didn’t get to work on that until after lunch. I surprised myself by getting up very early for after the previous day’s work I had been very tired going to bed and a sleep-in could have been a possibility. However, I didn’t rush into the work I promised I would do before continuing with the cellar job. For some time E had been hoping I would replace the fluorescent light in her workshop with a new LED unit and at the same time move it nearer to where she does most of her intricate work. I had purchased the new light a couple of days previously so I was obliged now to install it. That work took me less than an hour but most of that time was spent in preparation. Whilst I was doing that work I had put the robot floor cleaner to work in my bedroom. My next job was to vacuum the tops of the fitted furniture. I do this every few months for fluff and dust accumulates up there and if left can end up on the floor. It proves one thing, there must be a lot of dust floating about in the air. That work led to my cleaning the vacuum cleaner itself as I do that every few months too. I am not talking about just emptying the dirt but washing component parts and allowing them to dry before reinstalling them. I also replaced the 24 door and drawer knobs on my bedroom furniture.

After lunch I was finally able to continue with the work on the cellar. I completed the construction by cutting the plywood and fitting it to the sides of the boiler cupboard.……and then painting the whole unit with primer

I think I did enough for one day. It was five o’clock when I stopped work. After painting the unit with a couple of top coats it will be finished. I will then move on to the final construction work or rather I should say refurbishment of the room’s only storage cupboard. The only other task will be touching up on the paint work in various places and that will mark the end of the project unless we either seal the floor or paint it.

Shirley Anne


Feel better about it

During the work of digging out the cellar floor I had been anxious about the stability of the remainder of the floor close-by to the pit I had dug. In yesterday’s post I wrote about filling the bottom of the hole with hardcore and propping up the side walls to prevent the loosened sand from slipping away. I felt a little relieved having done that work but by the afternoon of the next day, Friday 9th, I felt much better about it. I had spent the whole morning mixing concrete and laying it. After breakfast I made the trip to the builders yard to purchase some granite stones and cement. I didn’t need to purchase sand of course for I had bags of it! On my return home I set up the mixer outside in the garden and proceeded mixing the concrete. Rather than pushing the mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow to take it indoors I filled a bucket several times and took that inside instead. There are steps leading down into the cellar room and using the wheelbarrow would be too awkward and probably messy. I found it easier and quicker using a bucket but it took four mixing sessions with the mixer and several journeys with the bucket. I used the wheelbarrow to collect the mixed concrete and then shovelled it into the bucket. When doing this sort of work I get into a routine and it makes the work easy. This is how far I got..

You can see that I have cemented in the tiles which I used to support the opened side to prevent the sand pouring out. Naturally at this stage it is rough but it makes the finishing stage easier to do. The far edge in the top picture and the near edge in the lower picture, both the same edge, have yet to be worked on. That will begin soon I hope.

Shirley Anne

Not very romantic

No walk for me on Wednesday morning, I wanted to get on with some work in the rear garden. For some time I have promised myself I would do something with the remaining long length of natural stone we had discovered buried with all the other stone a few years ago whilst we were digging out the ground behind what is now the Mound.

We had found such a large amount buried we were able to use it in various places around the garden as you might know if you’ve read my posts over the last three years or so. I decided to construct a stone seat in the area we now affectionately call The Secret Garden, once The Plot. There is a space immediately behind the garage which never sees the Sun. It is a great place to sit for a time to cool off when the weather is hot and sunny but the location isn’t exactly what you might call romantic though the view forward is pleasant sitting close to a water-butt and a compost bin which looks like a ‘Dalek‘ I would think isn’t.

A plant or two either of which prefer total shade or a couple of artificial plants might make it more attractive and perhaps that is what I will consider later. The work involved constructing the two small brick pillars and setting the stone slab on top and I had it done in an hour.

My next job will be to lower the drain pipe to below seat level and maybe construct a back rest fitted to the garage wall which shouldn’t take long once I decide to do it. Whilst I had some mortar I cut the stone cap and fixed it to the top of the brick pillar which I had built a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t been able to cut the stone at that time.

Finally I mixed some fine-grained concrete and set the stones around the base of the recently installed washing line post to complete that job too. I took the afternoon off and lounged about on the patio in the warm sunshine with E. Yes, it turned out much warmer than Tuesday had been (see yesterday’s post).

Shirley Anne



Apathy. The day started well enough considering it was Monday, back to work day and the fact that I’d a restless night’s sleep. I had one electrical job to do at nine o’clock but I left the house much earlier in order to pay a visit to the builder’s merchant. I needed more materials. In my last post I mentioned I might have most of it delivered whilst carrying some of it home in the van but as I was going to work the van was full of my electrical gear so I arranged for all of it to be delivered the next morning, Tuesday. I did have some materials left over at home. When I arrived at the house where I was to work and assessed the customers requirements I decided against doing it explaining to them that it was too much work for me to do because of my age. I had gotten the impression over the phone that the work was much simpler but like so often people get you to their homes and then begin to expand and add work to the original request. Much of the work involved lifting floorboards and chiselling out walls and the house was carpeted and furnished. I knew I wouldn’t get much help from the customer in moving stuff around which made the prospect even more daunting. I seldom carry out installation work these days unless I know it will be easy. I was feeling a little tired too and weary of it all. Apathy had set in. I needed a break or at least a good night’s sleep but the day was young and I couldn’t simply sit around doing nothing. I telephoned a younger female electrician friend and offered her the work and she arranged a visit that morning. I drove home and put the van away. I wanted to strengthen the small wall of the Plot at the pathway as part of the general work I have been doing there so I decided that was to be my work for the morning.plot-27


However, I couldn’t complete it as I didn’t have enough materials. Nevertheless I made a start by digging out the rear of the wall and putting some shuttering in before mixing the concrete and pouring it in the space. I used some scrap plasterboard as a sacrificial shutter for I wouldn’t be removing it later, it would be pointless. Had it been timber then I would have removed it once the concrete had set. I started at the point nearest the patio where the last Laurel bush stands for I knew there would be roots to contend with and sure enough there were. Part of the wall nearest the new steps has already been partially concreted , done when I was working around the steps earlier. Had this wall been left as a single brick structure it may have been subject to being slowly pushed down because of the Laurel. I will take the concrete to the height of the existing bricks and top the wall with natural stone later. At the time of writing there remains more concrete work to do behind this wall but it will be easier to do away from the main roots of the Laurel. After lunch I was beginning to feel better so I got my drill and screwdriver out and installed the steel-wire-armoured cable for the lamp post, when it arrives! I called the supplier regarding the delivery date but they were unable to tell me at that time. Anyway here are two pictures of the cable which runs from the patio to the corner of the garden where the lamp post will stand.lamp-post-cabling-1


The cable runs down the wall behind the washing line pole to a spot on the other side of the patio wall in the foreground. The electrical connection box and sensor will be fitted there as it is the north (almost) side of the wall. The cable is hardly noticeable even close-up as you can see because it is under the lip of the capping stones.

Shirley Anne

Nothing is straight

Nothing is straight but it really doesn’t matter. Nothing is altogether parallel either but again it doesn’t matter. Working on the project I have called the Plot it has become apparent that alignment with other structures is a little way off perfect. It is due to a couple of things, the rear wall of the garage is not perfectly built at right-angles to the perimeter wall and the small walls at the path alongside the house are not built parallel to the perimeter wall. I ‘discovered’ the discrepancy whist constructing the new steps. I was actually aware of the problem, if indeed I could say it was a problem, when construction began. On Saturday morning my work was to level the ground to the left of the new raised flowerbed and lay six paving slabs. plot-26That in itself proved a little awkward because I had to lay them so that a gradual slope was formed as I reached the pathway wall. Existing slabs to their left do not form a slope so I couldn’t simply follow their line. Now because I wanted the front edge of the last paving slab to sit upon the small pathway wall it meant that by the time I reached the perimeter wall the slabs were not parallel with the flowerbed. The alternative would be to have them parallel to the flowerbed but not parallel to the existing slabs next to the rear wall of the garage. In the end it won’t matter as I will be filling the spaces with a fine concrete mix which will disguise the errors. If you study the picture you will see what I mean. Had everything else been built squarely none of these problems would have presented themselves. It only takes one or two minor errors from previous building projects to cause problems with new construction projects. The only thing that has been built truly square with the perimeter wall and which also is parallel with the patio wall to the right is the new raised flowerbed! It should all look well when it is finished though despite the problems. I have yet to lay some paving slabs on the right-hand-side of the flowerbed too when I get around to it. There will be little left of what was once open ground in the Plot when the work is completed but that was the whole idea.

Shirley Anne

The waiting game

Builder at work
Builder at work (Photo credit: Tymtoi)

I’ve never been a patient person when waiting for things to happen though I have the patience to resolve problems that I am often confronted with. I just don’t like waiting, especially for others to take action. At the time of writing I am awaiting a quotation for the building work I am employing someone else to do for me rather than doing it myself and botching it up. Not that I can’t lay bricks myself for I have laid many of the in the past, rebuilding and extending the newest of the two garages we have at home and more recently a couple of minor bricklaying jobs. In this particular instance I have invited E’s nephew, a builder/bricklayer, to give me a quote. If his quotation is reasonable I will get him to do the work but if not I will try elsewhere. This means I have to play the waiting game as there is very little meaningful work I can do on the project until the brickwork is completed. As my electrical work is thin on the ground at this moment I am finding it difficult to cope with the idleness. I am not an idle person, not by a long shot so it is getting to me that I have nothing to do. The rest will benefit me physically but psychologically it is driving me crazy. I know things will suddenly change, they always do but I will be ready for the change when it happens. It is at times like these I should go to the pub, go for a bicycle ride, a walk, a drive, the cinema, the theatre, the shops, anything to relieve the boredom! However I know I will do few of those things if any, besides, I have to be reasonably available to do any electrical work that comes my way don’t I? There is that bedroom to clear out of rubbish but alas at the moment E is using the room to paint that yellow chair in a new colour to make it suitable for use in the bathroom. Thwarted in every direction! Oh well I’ll just have to remain bored for the time being!

Shirley Anne

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My involvement has ended

On Saturday afternoon my work on the bathroom project ended and all that remained to be done was filling and painting the box which covers the pipes to the bath tap column and painting the rear of the main door once more with its final coat. E will be doing that or will have done most of that on Monday if she has the time. There is one other job I have to do in the airing cupboard which wasn’t a part of the project per se but needs to be done when I get some spare time and that is to replace the immersion heater in the hot water cylinder which hasn’t worked for many months. During construction of the bathroom I lay in a new cable from the existing switch located downstairs and left it in the cupboard ready to connect to the heater when it is replaced. If you have been reading my bathroom posts you may remember me writing about the heater. When I originally rewired the house 25 years ago I couldn’t gain access to replace a section of existing rubber insulated wiring to the heater but once the bathroom project got underway I seized the opportunity to replace it. I will need to put an isolating switch local to the heater even though it will never be switched off in normal use. The switch downstairs will be used to switch the heater on if required. The cylinder is generally heated by the gas boiler with the electrical heater used as a standby. My electrical work is beginning to build up again after the Easter break but I am sure I’ll have some time to make a start on the next home project, the toilet in the cellar (basement). Preliminary work involves removing the door which leads out into the garden beneath the stone steps which lead up to the kitchen seen in this early photograph before we had the patio built and whilst we had the workmen in to replace the windows almost four years ago.16

The kitchen door is the wooden one at the top of the steps and directly beneath it out of sight is the door leading into the house from the garden. There is also another door before that one is reached but it can only be opened from the inside. The plan is to have that door opened from the garden or even bricked-up and done away with and for the main internal door opening to be bricked up too. There is a new door on the other end of the house which gives access to the garden so the old one can be bricked up without loss. Once that is done we plan to open a new doorway at the side of the house immediately round the corner and located this side of the black soil pipe that can be seen in the photograph above. At the same time as that opening is made we will have to brick up the internal door to the area.023

The internal door hangs in the blue painted frame and the door leading out beneath the stone steps is the one painted white inside. The new opening will be directly facing the door opening around which is the blue frame. It will be the only access to what then will be garden toilet. We may have to relay the floor in the room or replace it. We may employ a builder, perhaps E’s nephew, to create the new opening as a suitable lintel will be required and I would rather get a professional to do that work, I can brick up the other doorways myself, with a little help from E of course! So that’s the plan.

Shirley Anne

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Electrician (Photo credit: fingle)

I don’t know where the expression ‘cowboys’ came from when describing unqualified people engaged in the building trade and that includes anyone carrying out works outside of the building industry too. I have watch programs on television showing the shoddy workmanship and dangerous practices carried out by unscrupulous people who are only interested in making money. The programs on television may be a little dramatic in their presentation but there is no denying the truth in what they show. In my own capacity as an electrician I have come across some really appalling and often dangerous examples of workmanship, both electrical and otherwise in the places I have been working. It doesn’t happen on building sites where controlling authorities are involved. It is easy to understand why it is necessary for quality control and ensuring that only qualified personnel are engaged in the construction and maintenance industry but sometimes this is difficult to police. I have learnt much during my time spent as an electrician, which will be 50 years as of July this year. I learn by observation as much as anything else and I have a good knowledge of what is and what is not acceptable in the building industry. This has enabled me to carry out work for myself in the knowledge that what I do is perfectly safe and of the proper standard. I have learned to turn my hand to almost anything as a result but I don’t use all of my abilities to offer my services to others. If I did I wouldn’t do it unless I was being monitored by the relevant authority. Many years ago we lived in what is called a ‘dormer house’ which is a house having upstairs rooms protruding from the roof. Our house only had two rooms upstairs but there was plenty of space to extend that to four rooms. I had enough knowledge to be able to do most of the work myself but I engaged a builder to do the work of opening up the roof and finishing that. I fitted the new joists and flooring together with all the new interior walls, plumbing, electrical and other works. I was being monitored by the local building inspector whilst I was doing the major construction work but it was just a formality as I didn’t put a foot wrong. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I am doing something that could be potentially dangerous if not done correctly I want to know about it and indeed it is a requirement in law to ensure that it is but some people think they can get away with it. My argument is why not do it right in the first place? Why not get the qualifications and throw away the chaps and saddle?

Shirley Anne

Staying the course

Two construction workers at work.
Image via Wikipedia

Do you find that often you lose interest in something after it has occupied your thoughts, eaten away at your time or perhaps because it has become a burden? Throughout my life I have maintained an enthusiastic approach to whatever I do but have also found that I begin to lose an interest after the bulk of a project has been completed. For instance I have always been drawn to large construction projects in my domestic life, building extensions, moving walls and that sort of thing and whenever I got involved with such work I was completely happy. However when it came to finishing off whatever the project was I became bored with it. Often the finishing took longer than the bulk tasks themselves.  Over the last year or so I have been involved in quite a few projects at home and you can read about all that in previous posts. Much of the time I was planning the next project before the current one was finished and indeed I had a couple of projects underway at any one time. I like to see the end of a job and having the finished project in my mind’s eye aim toward that end. I am not satisfied until the task is complete. For the last two months now I have not done anything at home and not much at my occupational work either. Circumstances are against me at the moment and I find I am unable to make any further progress on work I should have completed by now. My heart isn’t in it at this time and I fear I may not stay the course. There will be a turning point I am certain but when that will be I am not sure.  I seem to be drifting along aimlessly and spending more time doing nothing in particular. I do maintain certain things though, playing my guitar, writing, messing about on my computer and now experimenting with recording some of my music. I go to the pub more often now after many months of abstinence and am re-connecting with folk there. Life changes, situations change but some things remain the same.

Shirley Anne