This Is Not A
Part Part Two - Sockets And See
I got home on the Thursday before Easter to find two letters awaiting me.
The first was from the Council, that body of all-seeing, all-powerful ones who rule our lives with nerves of steel, a heart of gold and a knob of butter. It informed me that They were going to re-wire the house. The second letter was from the contractors the Council had engaged to do the job, telling me that they were coming to do a survey on the following Tuesday in preparation for the work.
Now, if the Council has a fault (tough to believe, I know, but just entertain the possibility for a moment) it is in its belief that it has only three types of tenant: the retired, the disabled and the unemployed, and that the tenant can be expected to fit in to any timescale determined by the All-Holy Ones.
Since I currently fit into none of the above categories (although I am going to become a member of either the first or the third of them within the next twelvemonth; more on that another time), it narks me that I have to re-organise my life to suit them when - when you consider it - I, as the 'customer' who pays them for services rendered, should hold the whip hand in these matters.
Bear in mind that we were entering the Easter weekend. That meant that the Tuesday was the next working day and that, indeed, it was my next working day . So I called the contractor to arrange a time after I got home from work. He was very amenable, and a time of 3pm was arranged.
I forewent my customary afternoon nap to be up and about for him, which is why he turned up at 3.30. We went through the house pinpointing where the new power outlets would be put, in addition to the ones already in situ. The existing sockets were distributed as follows:
- living room: two double sockets
- kitchen - one double, three singles and one for an electric cooker (which I don't have)
- hall - one single
- landing - ditto
- smallest bedroom - one double
- medium bedroom - the same
- big bedroom - once more, even
Now, I didn't have much of a problem regarding the numbers of sockets; what really caused grief was the location of them. Whatever criteria had been used to place them when the house was last re-wired (sometime between 1975 and 1984), they didn't foresee either the nature or number of outlets required in the present day. This meant that I had had to run a large number of appliances of various sorts - ranging from this 'ere PC upon which I am typing and its attendant surge protector and peripherals to the reading lamp in my bedroom - from a number of two- and four-gang extension cables. This, it seems, is streng verboten in the modern era, and so a number of sockets were to be added.
When it came to the date of the job, he said that the earliest they could do it would be May 7. This was fine by me, because I had already booked that day off in anticipation of moving on with the sanding, so I wouldn't have to use up a day's leave which I didn't, in all honesty, have to spare. Not if I wanted my customary two weeks off in June, anyway. So the deal was done.
This, however, left me with an issue beyond that of delaying the Project; namely, of having to move a hell of a lot of stuff around to make room for where the contractor's bods were going to need to get to. I was also resigned to the upstairs floorboards being pulled up again, remembering the bother of having to refill the cracks between them after they were re-laid when the upgraded central heating went in nearly two years ago.
It also meant that I now had to do some swift spring cleaning. This was a task which I had been neglecting for some time in order to avoid duplicating work. As you can imagine, the sanding work I had been doing for over three months by that time had produced a lot of dust and, while much of this had gone into my elderly but trusty Goblin, much of the finer output had settled in various parts of the house. I was going to sort that out once the banisters et al. were ready to be painted.
So last weekend saw me in a frenzy of dusting, wiping and vacuuming, followed by part of Sunday and the whole of Monday tidying away what I could and moving stuff away from the most likely places they would need to access.
The cleaning of the PC and the desk it sits on produced its own specific frustrations on the Saturday evening. Having started the job around 7.30, it was well after eleven before I finished, only to find when fitting everything back together that, a) the mouse drivers had had an attack of the willies, which meant that I could scroll but not move the cursor and that the back and forward buttons had reversed function (this took the deletion and re-installation of said drivers the next day); and b) that at least two of the speaker cables were proving obdurate (the audio set-up here is an Altec-Lansing system kindly gifted to me by a then-colleague, which is very good but where the speakers connect into the main box by bare wires into spring clips, and connecting one speaker up almost invariably jogs another connection out of its clip), and had to be left for Sunday as well, as my language was getting somewhat intemperate).
So Tuesday morning dawned and, shortly afterwards, so did I. I had set my alarm for 6.45 but - as is often the case - was awake and about shortly before that. The crew were due at 8.15, but it felt like I hadn't left myself enough time to move the things which couldn't be moved before, place dust-sheets where they were needed and go around taking out the lightbulbs all through the house.
They arrived spot on time and the lead man and I took a walk through the joint agreeing on where the extra outlets were to go. As JudgeCo™ World Headquarters filled with electricians and tools, I retreated to the back yard. I always try to keep out of the way on jobs like this and let the professionals get on with it. After all, they know what they're doing, and they won't view my presence with any great degree of enthusiasm. When the new central-heating system went in, the weather - it being August - was absolutely foul, and I was obliged to sit in the living room and make them work around me. But this time it was dry, if very chilly, so I sat out back on my rather uncomfortable deckchair while the drilling and hammering proceeded. I had fully charged my own phone, my office-issue iPhone (I would never buy Apple merchandise for myself; QuickTime was a true pain in the arse in my early home-computing days, and it coloured my view of the company's products ever afterwards) and my .mp3 player the night before, so I was able to browse online and keep in touch with my work e-mails whilst listening to the most recent edition of Y Talwrn. I also - as much to keep warm as anything else - wandered down to the front gate from time to time to see if there were any passing neighbours to chat with (there were a couple). Otherwise, I watched the bumble bees.
A note about these: when they put the new heating in, they made a hole in the back wall of the house for the overflow from the combi boiler. They didn't seal the hole up again, leaving a gap of about ¼" around the egress point of the pipe. By last summer, the bumblies had moved in to the wall cavity and there seem to be at least seven or eight of them in the nest now. I believe in live-and-let-live vis-à-vis bumblies; had the new residents been wasps, I'd have shot a whole can of Raid into the hole before you could say 'pest control'.
As I have 'neglected' the garden so far this year (said 'neglect' merely amounting to letting Nature get on with it for a while whilst I concentrated on indoor work), there are plenty of dandelions, bluebells and columbines for the bumbles to sample, and I observed a lot of activity, including from one which seemed to be attracted to my trouser leg.
(Another note about bumble bees; they seem to be remarkably hardy. As the back bedroom window is immediately above the nest entrance, and that window having been open for much of Tuesday, I suppose it was inevitable that some of them in rising from their own front door would end up floating into the bedroom. But it wasn't until I went to clean the windows on Saturday afternoon, a full five days later, that I found five of them on the window-sill. More than that, they were all still alive, and I was able - with the help of a small piece of card - to encourage them back outside again. There was another one which I discovered at 6.00 this morning in the front bedroom for which I was able to do the same favour).
The temperature picked up a bit around noon, when I had my packed lunch. The crew knocked off for something around that time as well, of which - as an old trade unionist - I thoroughly approved. I took the opportunity provided by the lull to have a sneaky look through the ground floor (I was effectively banned from upstairs because of the missing floorboards). The old stuff had, of course, long since been stripped out and there were bare new wires everywhere. I also saw where they had pulled the gas cooker away from the wall for some reason, and wished that I hadn't; it was rammy behind there, and I felt bad about those lads having to work their way through an anthology of Ancient Grease to get the job done.
(The reason for the moving of the stove became apparent to me later, as you will see).
The work resumed apace, although it looked like it would still be quite some time before it would all be completed. I just browsed some more, watched the bees some more, walked down the gate some more (the sun had gone in, meaning that it had turned cold again), phoned my boss to book Wednesday off as well (there was going to be too much to do to get it all done after they had finished, and I thought I might as well get everything back as it should be straightaway rather than leaving it to be done evening by evening during the remainder of the week), and just generally waited.
Finally, somewhere around 3.30, they started to clear up and clean up (they did a good job of that, by the way; certainly better than the heating bods had done the time before). I then went through the house again with the lead man. I now had the following:
- living room: five double sockets (including two right next to each other in the corner where allegedly normal people would have a television and its attendant doodads)
- kitchen: four doubles, plus one behind the washing machine which works from a new switch on the wall, plus another one on a joint plate with the cooker socket (which also works from a port behind the cooker, which is why they had to pull the stove out; they also put a chain on it - presumably to stop it from trying to escape the horrors of the mess behind it - and they replaced the gas hose which they claimed was leaking, so A Good Thing They Did)
- hall - one double socket
- landing - ditto once more
- smallest bedrooom - two doubles
- medium bedroom - three doubles
- big bedroom - the same
They had also:
- added an extra light switch in the hall so that I could put the light on on the way out of the kitchen (although this invokes my OCD in that I can't bear to have a double light-switch where one of the switches is in the 'up' position and another in the 'down')
- put a new light in the bathroom which is round, and about a foot across, which emits that terribly harsh LED light which was - to use the phrase coined by the late, great Vivian Stanshall - "...like remand prison; or Sainsbury's, where it is forever day"
- replaced the bothersome smoke alarms on the landing and in the hall (which was a real pain when attempting to fry or grill anything in the kitchen) with no fewer than four heat alarms (living room, kitchen, hall, landing)
- fitted a new security light at the front (far nicer looking than the Argos job which my brother plumbed in to the downstairs light circuit some twenty-five years or so ago)
- added another security light by the back door, which doesn't seem to be triggered by anything; the other night, I could be observed dancing a lonesome reel up the back garden path without anything happening, only for the light to turn on once I had gone back in the house and shut the door.
They had also (and utterly unavoidably) pulled up some of the floorboards and, in putting them back, left some rather large gaps between them which will need my attention with the sanding-dust/PVA filler when time permits. In the meantime, I will have to remember not to drop anything upstairs.
So that's it. I now have enough sockets to power a small provincial theatre, and I'm left wondering whether all this is a ruse to tempt me into buying a lot more stuff so that they don't all go to waste. I also have five extension blocks which are, at least for the moment, surplus to requirements. At least the property is now 'future-proofed', at least until such time as the electricity runs out and we're all back to gas mantles and candles again.
A final big shout out to the team from Mike Pryde Electrical Services of Five Crosses, Minera for a fine job.