There’s an old saying about waiting for a bus, you wait for ages without one arriving then three come all at once! It was like that for me on Thursday, no electrical offers of work then I get three in a row. All very nice of course but I often wonder why it happens. At one address they had been without a bathroom light for four weeks yet they called me in the middle of the day expecting me to drop by then. I did call but it was after I had completed the first job. I asked them why they had waited for so long before calling someone out to fix it. Their answer? They were not that bothered! The problem I had with the work was its timing and consequently I missed having lunch. Even when I had returned home late in the afternoon someone called for my services but that work I scheduled for the following morning. I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend as the weather forecast was for a warm and sunny couple of days. Whether I could put up with doing little was doubtful but I wanted at least to get the opportunity. If I was to do any work it would only be something at home. Thursday marked the beginning of a new financial year in the UK for me and for everyone else as far as the Inland Revenue Service are concerned. It was April 6 the tradition start of the financial year. This means in the weeks ahead I will have to prepare my accounts ready for submitting my tax return form later. Most years I would have already done much of that work by now but this year I have been too busy either doing electrical work, such as I have received, and working in the garden and have been too tired to even think about my tax return. It actually doesn’t take me long these days because my turnover is quite low, well come on I am 71 years old! It is something I seldom look forward to, a reluctant exercise but it is one that unfortunately must be done. Most of the work is in simply collating the information, adding up profits and expenses before filling in the form. Anyway it is the price we pay for being self-employed. Each year I think it will be the last tax return I submit but up till now nothing has changed. Maybe next year? In the meantime I carry on while I still have the inclination.
I’ve been quite busy on the electrical front, all small jobs but very profitable nevertheless. I prefer the type of work I am doing for a couple of reasons, not least of all my age! What I like is the freedom and flexibility the smaller jobs allow me to have whereas when I worked full-time I never got a minute to myself unless I turned down work. Not a good idea if it is your main income. However, since I had an income from a private pension when I started self-employment twenty years ago that was less of a problem. Since I began receiving my State Pension eleven years ago there isn’t a problem at all when it comes to taking time off. That however isn’t me, if the work is small, and that’s all I will do these days, I am more inclined to do it. Having said that the pressure of offers sometimes is relentless. I even get called when I am not advertising! Much of my time so far this year has been spent in the gardens and no doubt that will increase as the weather warms up. It was another lovely sunny day on Thursday but still cold in the westerly wind. I went to do a job in a house on the other side of town at nine o’clock and had it finished just an hour later. As has often been the case recently I again noticed a few bluebells in the front flowerbeds on my return home. (Picture taken last year)Most were simply small and close to the surface but a couple were rooted deep beneath the soil. I wondered how I had failed to see them on my previous visits but they do grow quickly and short of removing all the plants and turning over the whole flowerbed soil I am bound to miss a few. Needless to say I put on my overalls and dug them out before digging a few more out of the flowerbed by the small greenhouse in the rear garden. (Picture also from last year) I thought I might have been able to sit out on the patio for a time but the wind was too strong and by early afternoon the clouds rolled in to blot out the sunshine. It wasn’t to be, not yet.
I am glad I entered into the electrical trade/business all those years ago. For someone who has an inquisitive mind it is the ideal occupation. People often ask why I took up electrical work and the answer I give is that I wanted to know how things work. It is still the reason even now and it doesn’t stop at electrical things, I am interested in many things and how they work, how they are made and the history behind them too. It is a passion I guess but it helped when I first embarked in my career that I enjoy working with my hands and to be truthful it was essential. There are no such things as poor electricians providing they are prepared to work.
I am not super rich and never could be unless I had a large business employing many people but that was never an option for me, I simply wasn’t that way inclined. Being self-employed is in itself a driving force though less so for myself these days because I am fortunate to have a two-pension income. My self employment allows me to enjoy that little bit extra without the worry that I would have to struggle on my pensions alone. I could manage on just my pensions and I could even still save something at the end of the month. It isn’t that extra cash that motivates me though, it is the fact that I am still capable of working and I enjoy the work and in meeting people. Of course I no longer work full-time, I have no wish to and probably couldn’t maintain full-time working for very long, even one day doing that is tiring at my age. On Monday morning I changed the bedclothes and washed the soiled sheets in the washing machine before breakfast then an hour later hung them in the boiler room to dry. It is such an advantage having cellars in a house. As I had nothing else planned I was wondering what I could do for the rest of the morning in the garden whilst the weather was dry. I didn’t wish to continue with digging out bluebells in the remaining section of flowerbed that as yet I haven’t touched. I thought there might be one or two popping up in places where I had been clearing them out so I went into the garden to check. I didn’t need to look far and soon found some beginning to show themselves in a couple of places. I spent an hour digging them out before returning indoors. It was now approaching lunchtime so I thought I would prepare a vegetable stew. Using onions, bell peppers, garlic cloves, carrots, sweetcorn, lentils, barley, green beans, pre-cooked diced chicken and seasoning I made enough for three meals.
By now it was 12.15 so I decided to have some for lunch but my phone rang and it was a job offer in the next town. I drove there and did the work which has now led to more work in the weeks ahead. It pays being an electrician if you are prepared to work………
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.
It never ceases to amaze me how the run-up to Christmas gets crazier each year. It is as though common sense flies out of the window and people become frantic to have things done before the holiday. I have never been short of work since I became self-employed in 1997 and especially in the months of September through to December and this year is just the same. The phone doesn’t stop ringing, which is good for business of course but I do wonder why people don’t think of things well before they need them. There is no reason on earth to get work done so close to Christmas just because you want that special lighting unit installed or an extra power outlet so you can illuminate your Christmas tree but many people leave it to the last-minute before getting the work done.
Often they will be disappointed as a result of leaving things too late. I don’t like to let people down and if I can help I will do but there are limits and I am getting too old for dashing about here and there to accommodate. I do what I can but try not to take on board too much work these days. The requests I get are often too much for me to take on anyway but it doesn’t stop people asking, even those who already know me and know my age will expect me to accommodate. There are those who are simply not playing with a full deck so to speak who ask some ridiculous things of me. I went to a house recently to fit a replacement fluorescent tube for someone who couldn’t do it themselves, though I couldn’t see why not when I arrived to do it. If people really cannot do simple tasks for themselves you would think they would ask a neighbour or a friend to do it for them but sadly they don’t, sadly for them because they have to pay me to do it. Perhaps they don’t have friends or good neighbours. At another house the next day I had been asked to check a faulty pull-cord switch in a bathroom. Thinking the guy meant a ceiling switch to control the main light I took a replacement switch with me (I do carry such things in my van stock). It turned out to be a small cord-operated microswitch in a small wall-mounted light. There was a switch plate outside the bathroom fitted with two switches, one for the main ceiling light and the other for the wall light. The light switch in the wall light was faulty but in such a way as to be permanently in the on position. That meant the light could simply be switched on and off using the switch outside! It was a bit of a wasted journey in one respect but I suggested I by-pass the pull switch within the lighting unit to leave the light switchable from outside the room as the main ceiling light was. He need not have called me out to disconnect the switch when all he had to do was to cut off the cord. He was billed accordingly for my time. Another job I was asked to do was to fit power outlets to existing wiring which had been abandoned by the electrician who had done the work six months ago. Why was it left until a week or two before Christmas to get it finished? As I write this on Thursday I am attending to that work in the morning but I’ll wager the work won’t be as straightforward as I am being led to believe. For instance, is the wiring ‘live’? If it is then that would be a dangerous thing to leave as such and if it isn’t then where and how is it to be connected to the supply? There is also a light to be checked out. Hopefully I shall have been able to solve these questions and have done the work by the time you are reading this.
When I used to work for a company it was expected of me to be available for that is what I was getting paid for. Actually until I became self-employed eighteen years ago I was an employee of two different employers. When I became self-employed I did some work under contract for another company on a daily basis together with private work for anyone who wanted the use of my services. To be self-employed is to be in complete control of everything one does and the responsibility that comes with it but unless working under contract one isn’t obliged to undertake any offers of work if one chooses not to. In certain circumstances the hours worked can exceed those expected for a normal day’s work and it is sometimes necessary to be flexible. However it isn’t expected that being self-employed means being at the beck and call of all those who contact us. For certain things I will make myself readily available, emergencies and loss of power for instance. When the caller describes their problem I may offer to help them sort things out for themselves over the phone if it is feasible or at the very least as a temporary measure help them to get around a problem. If that can’t be done I will usually offer to call in person as long as I am not otherwise employed somewhere else. Some people are ready to take advantage of my readiness to help but I won’t be sucked into that. I think some people don’t realise that I have a life outside of work or like have free time for myself as they will expect me to drop everything to look after their needs. Most people are sensible and will call me at a respectable hour though some will call my home number during the working day expecting me to be at home! Occasionally I am, as I was on Monday at lunchtime when someone called regarding a total loss of power, which I attended upon. Just as I was about to leave the house someone else called regarding the total loss of power in their garage where they keep a food freezer. I went there too. Some people will call me on my mobile phone during the working day and expect me to spend ages on the phone discussing things with them regarding their needs instead of calling me at home when I will most likely be free to chat. One of the most infuriating things is when people call me very late in the evening. Fortunately those occurences are very few but on Sunday evening just before eleven o’clock and as I was about to get into bed I received such a call. The caller I could tell was obviously foreign because of his limited command of the English language. In essence he was asking me to check, repair or replace an outside floodlight which according to him had been broken. I think he meant vandalised. I had the feeling he was expecting me to do it then! I told him that I wouldn’t be climbing up ladders to repair lights in the foul weather we have been experiencing then or at any time. I asked him why he was calling at such a late hour and he told me that the light had just stopped working and he needed it fixing! What a cheek! I hung up the phone and got into bed. Did I do the job? What do you think?
……I suppose. I meet all sorts of people in my capacity as an electrician. When I first entered the electrical business some fifty-three and a half years ago I was often engaged in domestic installations and repairs as well as industrial and commercial situations too. That work lasted fourteen years when I took a career side-step and entered into the maintenance field for a major bank at their large headquarters. The work was far more diversified than that which I had been used to but it was also far more interesting and I was able to gain experience and qualifications in many other things besides basic electrical installations. I spent a further twenty-one years working for the same company and was also able to gain promotion and a higher level of pay. Though there were many people working at the bank I had but only brief contact with most of them.
I became self-employed some eighteen years ago and I have since spent all my time working once again in the domestic field meeting different people each day as I did when I first started in the business. Most people are good to work for but I have met some who have not been so. Thankfully they are few and far between. I was called to help an old lady who had placed her freezer on defrost and couldn’t subsequently turn it back on. There was no logical reason for there being a fault and I expected as much when I arrived there. The problem was merely the fact that she had switched on the wrong switch on the twin wall socket so in fact hadn’t switched on the freezer. She had a good excuse though as she was over ninety-two years of age! We chatted for a short time over a coffee and then I had to leave to go to my next job. She asked how much it was for my visit and I refused payment. It didn’t matter, she kept insisting that she pay me something so in the end I felt obliged to accept for fear of insulting her. It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford to pay me, far from it for she seemed quite well off in her well-appointed apartment but she wouldn’t allow me to leave without something. I had done work for her and her husband in the past but he died a couple of years ago. My next job was a bit more involved. I had to re-arrange circuit breakers and fit a main switch in a supply panel/board for another old lady for whom I had worked before. She too was getting on in years and in her mid to late eighties and her husband had also died since I was there last a couple of years ago. She was very interested in what I was doing to solve the problem she was experiencing whenever she switched on her cooker. Essentially it had been supplied through an RCD unit which also supplied other circuits. Cookers are noted for tripping these devices and therefore should not be supplied through one. especially if there are other circuits connected to it. She was very thankful for my services and even more thankful that I had kept the fee as small as I could. Later I was called to replace a ceiling light for a young guy, well younger than me! He was very amiable and helpful too. It is people like these who make my day and my work enjoyable.
……early to rise, makes a man (or woman) healthy, wealthy and wise. Do you remember this snippet of wisdom taught to you when you were young? I used to think it applied to others and not myself but then I got wise. Staying up till the late hours and then sleeping in the following day has never been a way of life for me ever since I began my working life. Of course there were days when I did stay up late and did sleep in the following morning but they have been few. Being as I am self-employed and that since 1997, the saying has more of a meaning than it once did. When working for someone else or an organisation the tendency is often to do only that asked of you and no more. That principle doesn’t apply to everyone for there are those who give their all irrespective of whether they are self-employed or not and that is a good thing, Speaking as a Christian it is right and proper to put 100% effort and interest in your work, especially if it is for and on behalf of your employer. Now if that employer happens to be yourself you can see the reason for this approach for if you are lazy you will be the one to suffer. Even before I became a Christian I applied this principle to my approach to work. I took pride in my work and was rewarded for it by way of promotion and better prospects. Since becoming self-employed, which incidentally was only eight years after I became a Christian, it was natural for me to continue to give my all. It is a biblical teaching too. So from the first tentative days of being self-employed to the present day I can say that I have become (more) healthy, wealthy and certainly more wise! I have been telling everyone that I am now working part-time, have become semi-retired but in reality I am finding my income remains almost as it was a few years ago and I am better off than ever. I try not to work too hard but occasionally I find myself putting in more hours than I had intended though nothing like I used to, after all I am approaching seventy years of age! I meet other people of a similar age and find that those who seem to be more agile and hard-working into their old age fare much better than those who don’t. They too retire early and rise early ready to catch the proverbial worm. Laziness is the seed which produces poverty and poor health.