I didn’t remember anything after nine-fifteen in the evening on Thursday. After a much needed shower I was in bed just after nine and fell asleep almost immediately. It was the work I had put in on Thursday which knocked me out. I woke up just before the alarm which was set to four o’clock as I wanted to take my walk before five. Another pleasant walk with little or no wind blowing though I had to keep my hood up for a short time when it rained. It was only light rain which was good. I returned home by six-forty and ate breakfast. I spent an hour or so relaxing after breakfast and didn’t change into my working clothes until almost eight-thirty. I spent a full three and a half hours working on the project. My aims were to instal the wiring for the new lighting circuit and remove the old installation. I wanted to switch the supply over to the new wiring ready for connecting everything up at a later date. I wanted to finish plating the ceiling with the new plasterboard and instal the insulation behind it though I knew there was one area along the back wall which I wouldn’t have time to do. It is the wall facing you in the picture. That is because there isn’t a joist close enough to the wall to fix the small strip of plasterboard to fill in the gap. I needed time to come up with a solution though I am thinking of pushing those cables up and boxing them in which would solve the problem. I had to drill holes in the plasterboard ready for the new lights to be inserted later. I also had to rig up a temporary light in the room once the existing circuit had been disconnected and removed. I found a length of flexible cable which was around ten metres in length and also an old fluorescent fitting measuring around a metre in length and would use them for the temporary light. I would plug it into one of the power outlets on the Patio and would leave it there until it became in the way of doing other things. I got the majority of all that work done after three and a half hours at which time I had a snack for lunch. An hour later I spent a further hour and a half completing my set tasks. Five hours in total. The concrete lintel is still waiting to be lifted into place and until it is done I cannot finish the brickwork above it nor install the wooden lintel behind it together with the brickwork on the inside. Only when they are installed will I be able to remove the Acrow supports. Perhaps my son would be able to find the time on Saturday to help lift that lintel. I was sure hoping so.
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.
I had been reasonably busy on Monday, especially in the morning as I had been removing many light fittings and replacing them with basic roses and pendants. The lady of the house had sold the property and wished to take the lights with her to her new property in Hampshire. It is a requirement that electrical circuits in a property must be in working order with all fixtures and fittings in place or as in this case replacements fitted. I don’t know why some electricians insist on wiring some circuits the way they do when it leaves too many cables at the light ceiling roses. The maximum should never really be more than four cables, that is twelve conductors. The minimum of course would be one or two cables, that is three or six conductors. Ceiling roses can accommodate these levels though I have to say the more conductors the more difficult it is to connect them neatly. Another thing I find with some electricians is the lack of slack they leave in the roses or switches which makes alterations and repairs almost impossible in some cases. These are the problems I had at this house so it inevitably took me longer than normal to do the work. Anyway, Tuesday started quite differently as I had no scheduled work but there was one job I wanted to do at home which was to fill-in the three small spots on the Plot with concrete where they couldn’t be done when the original work was carried out a couple of weeks ago. It was less than an hour’s work and I was soon back indoors with nothing to do. I was waiting for a call from the place I had ordered the wall plaque a few days earlier and also from an electrical wholesaler who was sourcing the part-night photo cell I have been attempting to acquire to control the garden lamp-post. It was mid-morning when my phone rang but it was an invitation to work at a house less than a half-mile away. I was more than happy to oblige as I was beginning to get bored. He had a couple of track lights, the track of which appeared faulty but after testing I discovered it was the lights themselves that were faulty and would need replacing if he wished to keep the track system. He wouldn’t need me or any other electrician to fit the replacements. I returned home with the prospect of little to do for a couple of days. There seems to be therefore a bit of a lull in activity and until I receive the plaque and the sensor I will be searching for things to occupy my time. I had one job scheduled for Thursday but it was rescheduled to be done on Friday instead which meant Wednesday and Thursday would be free though I did have a dental appointment on Wednesday morning. I really looked forward to that!
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.
I went to check out a reported faulty electric cooker hob on Tuesday morning by the daughter of a lady in whose house I had worked in February of this year. I was told by the daughter that she had been cleaning her mother’s hob and a fault had developed, there was a loud noise and smoke was seen coming from beneath the hob. I had offered to go there immediately but as it was late I was told that it could wait until the next day. I got there around nine o’clock and realised that I had installed the then new hob earlier in the year. The daughter had confessed to her mom that she had in fact caused the fault whilst she had been cleaning it, she had been heavy-handed with the water which had found its way inside the hob. My task was to trace the problem and hopefully effect a repair though I no longer carry out such repairs in a professional capacity and haven’t done so for many years. I had to remove the unit, turn it upside down and remove the metal cover to expose the electrical connections but a visual inspection revealed nothing. Using a test instrument revealed that the fault lay inside one of the four simmerstats controlling the heating plates. It would need replacing but as it was an unusual piece of equipment finding a replacement would prove difficult. A repair specialist would probably have one in their stock. I was thinking at the time why they hadn’t simply called a specialist in the first place. All I could do was isolate the faulty part to leave the other three plates working. That meant my part in the procedure was ended. I have to limit what I will do when people ask me to fix things as I am not geared-up to do all types of work and most other electricians aren’t either. We have to specialise because we cannot carry around a large stock of parts whereas a repair specialist would. The lady of the house had just returned home from a spell in hospital after knee replacement surgery and her daughter had been paying her a visit for a week or so. Her daughter actually lives in the Channel Islands. During my time there I got the impression that the mother was suffering with her memory, perhaps the early onset of dementia. On my previous visit some eight months ago I had discovered that half of the house electrical wiring was in need of rewiring and in fact the electric hob circuit was also in need of a rewire. There had been an extension to the property some years ago which had been wired as new and is therefore not in need of a rewire. The strange thing is that the built-in oven and grill unit was part of that new installation yet the hob sitting next to it had been left connected to the old rubber-covered wiring. I remember reporting all of my findings to the lady and giving her the name of another electrician to look at the possibility of a complete rewire. Nothing had been done. What can I say?
On Saturday evening E went off somewhere all dressed up, not that she ever dresses in finery but she was dressed for socialising and not in her everyday clothes. She arrived back home around eleven-thirty and I was in bed. I didn’t see her on Sunday morning as it was around ten-thirty by the time I got downstairs. I found the note she had left on the kitchen table telling me that she hadn’t been able to close down the garage door after putting the car away. The door is a roller-shutter type, shown on the right. She wasn’t around for she had gone out again and for the day I was to learn later. I knew immediately what had happened with the garage door. It had become jammed when it was opened and then unwound itself as she attempted to close it. Well thanks very much I thought. She gone off somewhere gallivanting whilst I had to attend to the garage door. I didn’t mind really, after all she wouldn’t have a clue how to fix it whereas I might be able to. I skipped having anything to eat, got the ladder and toolbox from my van and set about attempting to repair the door. First of all I isolated the electrical supply then pulled out the lever which mechanically disconnects the motor from the door mechanism, something akin to using the clutch to disconnect a car’s engine from the drive wheels but in this case it is permanent as long as the lever remains fixed in position. This enabled me to pull down the door until it reached the floor which was surprisingly easy once it had been unstuck. I was then able to re-engage the motor by operating the mechanical lever and test it electrically once the power had been switched on. I found that the door rolled up but wouldn’t stop at its predetermined position and then jammed itself in place. If I set it to close it would simply unwind but not drop down. The solution was to reset the limit of upward travel and therein lay the problem, for me at least. I removed the cover on the control panel to see if there was a way to make an adjustment but nothing was obvious even though there are adjustment screws on the electronic panel. Without the electrical diagram I would be groping in the dark so I was forced to leave it and call out the guy who installed and looks after our garage doors. If I am at home when he calls I shall be able to ask how the adjustment is made and will then be able to do it myself if I am that way inclined. Getting him to call is the problem as he is usually very busy. In the meantime I have instructed E to stand with the door as she opens it and to interrupt its travel as it reaches a certain point so that it won’t over-travel and jam up again. Closing the door presents no problem. So for a few days she will have to put up with the inconvenience of getting out of the car if she’s been away from home so that she can watch the door and stop it. So that was my Sunday morning, my day off, my rest day. It is just as well that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath as it says in Scripture. I did nothing else all day but remained at home. I was experiencing some aches and pains in my back again though nothing like those I had been suffering with a couple of weeks ago. Just as I was about to have something to eat the front door bell rang and it was my eldest son. He doesn’t have a set of keys to the house and though we offered to give him some he refused. His younger brother has no such qualms, he has a set of keys. He had driven over in the hope that he could store some more of his belongings in our house. More than two of the rooms in our house are filled with his and his wife’s belongings whilst they are looking toward getting their own house. They presently live with their daughter at her parents house about three miles away. He didn’t stop long, he never does. As he left my eyes filled up and I felt so alone and lonely…………but that is another story for another day.
On Tuesday I had resigned myself to having no work to do. It was a very blustery day, a mixture of rain, sunshine and high winds and although I would have to go out in it if a job request came through I was happy to be able to stay indoors if one didn’t. However I did have to go into the garden to place the green wheelie bin back where it is usually stored out there for the wind had graciously moved it somewhere else overnight! That was because there was little weight in it to stop it from moving. I should have placed a large stone in front of it to prevent the wind from moving it as I usually do if it is empty. Anyway whilst out in the garden I thought about the odd smell I had encountered inside my van when I used it the day before. I remembered that I have a small gas torch in there which might have been the cause of the smell so I investigated. Sure enough, the gas canister wasn’t tightly secured to the jet assembly but how that had happened is a bit of a mystery as I hadn’t used the torch for quite some time. I locked the van and went back indoors after securing the gas canister. A few minutes later I got a call from a lady living in the next town who seemed very desperate to have an electrical problem fixed. It was still only two in the afternoon and I was available. Essentially she had been fitting a new lamp shade to a ceiling fitting and had ‘blown the fuse’ as she put it. I told her how to rewire the fuse but she said she wasn’t capable to do it. I explained that I would have to charge her my minimum price to call there and fix it for her and that if her fuse had blown there must be a reason for it which would need investigating anyway. I drove there immediately and discovered that she had twisted the lamp holder so much whilst fitting the shade that the wiring inside had shorted the circuit. There were two old iron-clad fuse boxes fitted with re-wirable porcelain fuses and indeed one of those fuses had blown. I rewired it. The light flex would need to be replaced and to do that the ceiling rose (the same as shown above) would have to be opened. Unfortunately it was an old installation and the rose had been painted over so many times it had to be broken to disconnect the flex. That meant a new ceiling rose too. The old vulcanised rubber covered wiring in the ceiling was fortunately in good condition. Rubber insulation has a life expectancy of between 40 and 60 years in domestic situations and this wiring must have been around 60 years old. Rubber either becomes brittle, breaking off easily in the hand or it becomes sticky and elastic, equally as bad. This installation however was surprisingly good. It needed rewiring of course and I told the lady to consider having it done but for the time being the installation seemed safe enough. As usual in these cases where the installation is old the householder isn’t prepared to hear that or is ready to fork out the money to have it done. A new power supply panel is certainly required and would be installed during the rewire. I have to explain and point out any problems I find and then it is up to the householder to act upon them. To reassure the lady that I wasn’t after seeking more work I told her that I no longer carry out that sort of work anyway because of my age. She then asked if I would return on another day to replace a faulty light switch for her and I told her that I could do it whilst I was there and it would save her a lot of money not having to call me out a second time. She agreed and I replaced the switch. She couldn’t thank me enough for the work I had done for she had been without lighting for several days according to what she had told me. Evidently no-one would take on the work for her. Later in the evening she twice called again to thank me telling me that she would recommend me to all her friends. Nice but ……..
I got to thinking yesterday
That things were going not my way
The many plans I had in store
Grew wings and flew out of the door!
It seems to happen frequently
As if my life was jinxed for me
But other times it goes quite well
Then pleasant stories I can tell.
So life does have its ups and downs
And I must never wear a frown
I’ll take each moment as it comes
And praise The Lord for what He’s done.
Copyright Shirley Anne 15 Sept 2004
Two days ago I wrote about people who seem to think I will do their jobs for next to nothing, I don’t but I do sometimes lower the price under certain circumstances, not my own but those for whom I am working. That however doesn’t happen often. Very rarely will I charge absolutely nothing for the work I have done. Surprisingly this past week I have earned more than I thought I would because few had called for my services. It goes that way sometimes. I haven’t been at my best health-wise as I explained in previous posts but I am beginning to return to normal so I was glad about that by the end of the week and the fact that I have been able to get back to work too. On Saturday morning I was driving to my electrical supplier in order to purchase some cable I needed for a job I am doing at home when I received a call from someone living in a nearby town asking if I could do some work. I don’t normally work for others at the weekend but I asked what the job entailed. The lady told me she had bought a replacement oven but the supplier told her that the circuit needed a power outlet as the old oven had been hard-wired to the supply without a switch. It sounded a reasonably easy task so I offered to do it for her as soon as I’d been to the supplier. I arrived there forty minutes later. I needed to remove the old oven to get access to the wiring which was easy enough but I discovered that it had been connected to the supply behind the built-in refrigerator. I inched out the fridge to see the connection box but it was buried in the plaster. I noticed what I thought was the cable supplying it and thought it best to simply cut it off (rather than have the problem of trying to remove the fridge) and redirect it to where I was to fit the switch whilst at the same time disconnecting the oven cable by cutting that off too.. I fitted the switch and made the connections but here was no supply when I switched it back on. To my horror I discovered I’d made a terrible mistake by cutting what I’d thought was the supply cable but it was in fact supplying a hidden power outlet and had been connected to the same box behind the fridge. I therefore had to remove the fridge in order to get at the connection box to undo my mistake. In any event I had to remove the fridge anyway in order to add another power outlet for the new oven as the original cable on the oven would not have been long enough to use to wire the new power outlet where it had to be sited. Still with me? It all sounds simple but in fact it was a bit of a nightmare after I’d gotten the fridge out of the way. Firstly it was well and truly wedged in place and had been fitted on a small piece of timber to raise it off the floor and then screwed in place. I finally managed to get it out and was then able to get at the connection point that also needed replacing. It had been plastered into the wall and was broken so it needed replacing anyway and that was another reason the fridge had to be removed. All this work to connect an oven that hadn’t yet been delivered! I soon had the electrical part of the work done once that fridge had been removed but when it came to putting it back it became a problem. First of all it was jam-packed with that much food it weighed heavily. Secondly it needed two people to replace it. Fortunately assistance came from a neighbour for the man of the house couldn’t help me as he had only recently come home from hospital after he had suffered a heart attack. It took us more than an hour to get the fridge back under the worktop and the guy helping me was a little frustrated because it had been so awkward. I was just grateful for his help. It was then I discovered that the floor covering had been damaged during the process of removing it. On reflection I perhaps should have placed something on the floor but it would have had to have been plywood, not something likely to be on hand. That was the last straw for I had been there almost four hours doing a job that normally would have taken a little over one hour and to be frank I’d just about had enough! Naturally I will be billed for a replacement floor covering but fortunately the floor area is small. It should be covered by my public liability insurance so it won’t come out of my own pocket unless there is a clause where I have to pay the first couple of hundred pounds. I have had the insurance since I started working for myself and have never yet had a reason to make a claim, neither has anyone else but accidents can happen at any time. I felt awful nevertheless having inconvenienced those I had been working for and for damaging their floor covering. Hopefully at least they will have their new oven soon and a new covering for the floor. I didn’t bother doing any work at home after that episode, it was far too late in the day.
Some days you know you should have stayed in bed!
There was a time when I would accept any work offered to me but as I got older I began to refuse certain requests. I began my working career in the electrical supply industry, probably the best place to start, at the source as it were. I spent just over fourteen years carrying out all kinds of electrical work until I moved on and undertook an engineering maintenance role. I spent another twenty-one years in that field where I received training in many other disciplines, refrigeration, air-conditioning, heating and ventilation, electronic and computer control equipment and many other diverse things. I certainly had a comprehensive electrical engineering education having probably worked in every imaginable situation with all kinds of equipment. Suffice to say it would be easier to mention those things I haven’t worked on or with or faulted in industry or elsewhere but some seventeen years ago I decided to start afresh and work for myself instead. I had been fortunate in receiving enough financial security in the form of a pension and a generous lump-sum of cash to make it easier. At first I took on a maintenance contract working part-time for a single organisation and spending the rest of the time working in the domestic scene, people’s homes. I would do anything and everything concerning domestic installations but as time went by I stopped taking on the larger tasks such as house rewiring or even part-rewiring and only taking on smaller jobs. Now you might think that small jobs wouldn’t be worth the while doing but in fact I have found the opposite to be true. Most contracting electricians only want to take on large contracts and that is understandable for that will be their main income. Consequently the smaller jobs are often left or refused which is better for me, especially now as I am getting older and don’t want the heavier work. I made the decision to work only part-time a couple of years ago but I have found that sometimes there is so much work available I put in more hours than I intended. There will be a time when I will not be able to do that I am sure so I take on the work if I feel I have the time and the energy until that time comes. Recently I have been recovering from cosmetic surgery and have been unable to do as much as I would have liked and coupled with that I have been feeling generally drained probably because of having a cold. However I haven’t been lazy and I have taken on some work but I have also rejected quite a few offers too, mostly larger jobs which I have passed on for others to do. I’ve probably refused more work than I’ve taken on these past few weeks but that will probably change knowing me. Even if I wanted the work I am not at this moment feeling up to it anyway! Gradually things are getting better though and I have been able to take on some work as it comes in.
For most of my life I have enjoyed having good health and have no serious issues. I feel for those who are not as fortunate in regards to their health for I know what it is like to be incapacitated albeit for a short period whenever I am not feeling at my best. To have that problem continuously must be a nightmare though I know people who have such problems and they simply get on with it. That requires resilience, determination and a desire to succeed despite shortcomings. Even so whenever we fall ill or are ‘under the weather’ and not feeling at our best life can be miserable. All we want to do is rest and get better as soon as possible. Recently I had cosmetic surgery which has left me feeling tired and incapable, not wanting to do anything. I am plagued with occasional headaches and have had to resort to taking medication for that much as I dislike doing that. There comes a point though where it becomes unbearable so I take the pills. I have been a little bit active though and as I began to regain my strength I was able to do some electrical work. However, on Wednesday I went to look at a job in a nearby town at the request of the householder who was keen for me to do the work for him rather than anyone else. He called me some weeks ago but I had to decline his invitation to look at the work then because of my imminent surgery. I went to see what was required but I had the feeling it was going to be more involved than he seemed to think. He wasn’t there on Wednesday but I discussed the project with his wife for whom the work is being done. She plans to use a garage as a workshop for her ‘hobby’ which is making dresses and other garments. New doors and windows have already been fitted so the garage no longer resembles its original purpose of housing a vehicle. It simply looks like an empty shell of a room that needs rebuilding. A power supply exists but it is far from adequate for the intended workshop. A new supply is required even before any other electrical work is carried out. On paper it all sounds simple and straightforward but in real terms it is quite a lot of work. Having discussed the project with the lady of the house she was able to understand just what was involved and the likely cost. She asked if I thought the work was too much for me to take on board and I told her that at the moment it would be too much for me to do. She was grateful for my honesty and for explaining to her the amount of work that would be required to do what she and her husband were asking. It is often the case that people do not fully understand what is required when doing electrical work of any size. Had I been feeling better I probably would have taken the work on but unfortunately I wasn’t. I hadn’t driven there with the intentions of refusing the work but by the time I reached the house I began to feel weak and lethargic and didn’t really want to be there. I don’t like letting people down and was determined at least to turn up as promised. I couldn’t have commenced working on the project immediately in any case as the customers wanted to discuss things first. The lady could see that I wasn’t at my best and was fully understanding. she asked if I knew of another electrician who could do the work and who would be reliable. I contacted another female electrician I know who is well capable of doing the work and she will be in touch with them soon. I drove back home and by the time I got there I was really feeling out of the game. I began to think I was coming down with a cold for I had the symptoms. I needed to take time off and simply rest for a while.