Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Happy New Year 2016

Well, here we are again. Most of the people I know seem to have had quite an eventful 2015. Some had nice life events; engagements, marriages, babies, new jobs. Some had difficult or sad events such as surgery, deaths of pets or family members. Some had a perfect storm of horrible events; death, divorce, forced sale of their home, diagnoses of chronic and/or serious illness for themselves or family members, car accidents, multiple breakdowns of things like computers and white goods. I don't know what it was about last year, but many people are glad to see the back of it. It was a year of changes for me, but I feel like I got off relatively lightly. My house purchase and move went okay, despite coinciding with exams and a biopsy, the results of which showed nothing to worry about. Although I only managed to get one job interview and that was a 'no', and class attendance has been at an all-time low, the osteoarthritis has been relatively good; all the yoga, mindful movement and daily physio exercises have paid off. Things could be worse.

As ever, the time has flown by since I moved. I see I didn't blog much this year, probably because I would just be repeating myself about cleaning furniture, unpacking boxes, sorting things out. And yet I managed more beach time this year, even if it was less about lolling around with a book in the sunshine and more beach-combing in a chilly breeze.

As I mentioned in a previous post, a lot of the time has gone in problem solving. Working out how to fit furniture into rooms of a different size and shape. Moving bits of furniture and heavy boxes on my own (it's all about levers - I even managed to right my swing seat when the last lot of high winds tipped it over on the patio). Trying to fit things into a kitchen which has more cupboards than my previous one, but paradoxically, less space because the cupboards are all smaller. Drying washing indoors without my beloved laundry maid airer (no space for it in the new place, unfortunately). Getting the computer, TV and other bits of media kit connected. Trying to get the Christmas lights working. (Lay them out flat - a miracle, they all work! Fight with the metres of twisty wires to arrange them on the tree and switch on again, wow, all working! Switch on the next day, a set of 10 has gone off. Uttering my usual mantra 'Okay, I can do this, lots of people do it, how hard can it be?' Find the spare bulbs and set to work trying to find the one that's blown. None of them look as though they have blown. The instructions to 'just ease the bulb out of the holder' belie the difficulty of removing them. A couple of hours and wrecked thumbnails later, I have replaced all 10 bulbs in the loop which failed and not managed to fix the problem. Decided that I need to leave it otherwise I'll never get the tree decorated and add some sort of voltage detector device to the wishlist.)

What is it with me and heating systems though? Back at the beginning of the year, I had a freezing few weeks in my old place when the pump failed, the boiler tripped off and I couldn't get responses or sensible help from heating engineers to fix it. Now, the heating and hot water here have gone wrong. I already knew this heating system would need replacing, and the grand plan was to replace the back boiler with a new combi boiler vented through the roof, and replace the gas fire in the living room with a small woodburner. The quote I had from British Gas for the boiler and plumbing came to £6500, which was pretty much £2000 beyond my budget. I meant to follow through with other quotes, but as each job application was rejected, it seemed impossible that I could afford it in the short term.

In the meantime, the heating and hot water at least worked, after a fashion. I found early on that the timer controller in the airing cupboard didn't actually work, and was told by the seller that they used to leave the heating on 'continuous' in the winter and just let the thermostat switch it on and off. Once I started the heating for the winter, I found that in fact the thermostat didn't seem to work at all. Then, with an alarming whirring noise a few days before Christmas, the heating went off. Switched off and on again. Nothing. Switched on the gas fire - that works. Switched on the hot water, the water doesn't heat but the heating comes on instead. Rummaged around in the airing cupboard, failed to find a separate immersion switch. Gave the 3-way valve a tap or two with a hammer, just in case, but no difference. Called a few heating engineers - all calls went to their telco messaging services and I received no call-backs. Ditto a few calls made between Christmas and New Year. At least I have an electric shower, the washing machine and dishwasher are cold fill, and I can boil a kettle for other washing up, but it's a bit tedious not having hot water on tap when you're used to all mod cons*. I know, #firstworldproblems.

So, the year has turned a corner, the days are supposed to be getting longer (difficult to tell, as the weather continues mild, wet and windy) and in addition to the preparation for this term's classes and the looming tax deadline, I need to find a heating engineer who answers their phone and is willing to tackle an older system to restore my hot water.

Happy 2016! Let's hope it's a good one for all of us!

London Fireworks 2015-16, Five past midnight

*Note for non-English readers and space aliens: 'All mod cons' stands for 'all modern conveniences', that is, things like electricity, central heating, hot and cold running water and an indoor bathroom and toilet; a phrase which used to feature in adverts for places to rent or buy and which you don't see any more, presumably because it is taken for granted.

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