Sunday, 1 May 2016

Trust has gone out of the window

Friday morning around 8 just one of the roofing guys arrived, took some measurements and said he was going for materials, he wouldn't be long.  We never saw him again that day and as usual there was only an answering machine when we phoned the office.  Annoying as Mr FF waited around and could have been doing other things.
Saturday two guys arrived around 9.30, fair enough it was the weekend, they worked until lunchtime and said they'd be back today to finish off because they knew we plan to leave on Monday morning.
This morning we were up early as usual and waited, I said that it was reasonable for them to have a lie in on Sunday but by 10 things were getting tense.  At this stage Mr FF told me that he'd been a bit concerned yesterday when they took some of their tools away saying they needed them for another project.  We had the phone number for one of the workers, message service, same when we tried to phone the boss.  We've waited all day and its nearly 6, no sign of anyone, no phone call, niente, such a smart idea to ignore your 
customers and leave them in the lurch.

Mr FF is currently in the lounge trying to board up the opening to make it weather tight while we are away.  We really didn't want the guys coming into the apartment when we are not here because of  the risk that they could leave us insecure against the weather, though it's probably needs must as there are still tiles to put back and the new roof to waterproof.  
We will have to re-arrange the fitting of the new units as we can't rely on things being ready when we get back.  I don't blame the workers, it seems the management call them away and they spread themselves between so many jobs they do nothing satisfactorily.  Additionally they should have a manned office to deal with customers, not an answering machine that produces no response.
It's all so very very annoying, wasting our time and emotions and sadly typical of the construction industry.  On the bright side our builder who is a separate company has been great, he left his tools when he finished forming the opening for Mr FF to borrow.  He's coming to collect them later today and has offered to help if he can.    
When I first worked in the construction industry, for an architect, my boss insisted that our practice take on any project no matter how small.  As he said the little kitchen extension could be for the chief exec of some huge company that would one day need a new HQ and if we made a good job of the small work we might get the big stuff.  It seemed to work, pity that the roofing company we've engaged doesn't realise that, I don't imagine they'll get back in this building for a long time, especially if I have anything to do with it.
And how fortunate that one of us can turn his hand to this sort of work, which will definitely not be tolerated in Italy, where would we be without Mr FF.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Life has become a little tedious

We've had two days of the most dreadful weather, rain, hail, snow and strong winds, that has slowed down progress at the penthouse.  Apart from not being able to do so much outside, our roofers get called away to emergencies, which I can quite understand.  If I had water pouring into my home I'd want someone round straight away, no wait I did have water pouring in.
Ben who is doing the lead work round the new opening is excellent, he's making a wonderful job and takes a great pride in his work.  
Producing this sort of fitting from a flat sheet of lead is nothing short of brilliant, it really is going to look splendid.
But for now things look much the same in the lounge, chaotic, and it seems such a long time since we actually sat down in there.    You can get an idea of the size of the new opening when you see one of the old doors to the left of the blocked up space, just beside the step ladders. Rain is pelting against the plastic sheeting, work has stopped and tomorrow is really the last day to have the new roof waterproofed, the tiles put back on and the opening properly boarded up to keep us water tight before the leave for Italy on Monday.
To add to our problems, we had steeplejacks here on Monday doing work on the building's lightning conductors.  They seem to have broken some roof slates as we had water coming into the lounge in a location nothing to do with our work and directly under where they have been.  
It's all par for the course,  we always like to go off to Italy in a state of mental and physical exhaustion, we have to get the maximum benefit from our break.
And finally, completely frustrated by Extra Energy as detailed in my last post, I phoned them and said we had decided to cancel our standing order and they could come and disconnect our supply, something the press would love as we are a couple of pensioners.  The man was more than sympathetic and said he would reduce the monthly payment, I asked to pay £60 instead of £126 explaining that since they already held £1,000 of our money they could take that risk.  He said the change could take 4 to 6 weeks to activate and both Mr FF and I expected nothing would happen.  Yesterday we had an email saying from 03 May our payment will be £60, it that's true it will be some kind of result.  Now we need to get back the money we are in credit, but not just yet, I don't have the strength until after our holiday.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Just throw it all at me today

Work has ground to a halt.  Yesterday the lead boys arrived, pleasant, hard working lads they were making a cracking job and should have been finished today.  However, they got called away to an emergency roofing job on a 4 storey house.  Meanwhile the weather chucked everything at us, including hail and snow while Mr FF battened us down, apart from a few gaps which will be covered by the tarpaulin tonight.   He's gone off for more supplies and hopefully work will resume tomorrow.
So I've spent the day battling with our gas and electricity supplier, Extra Energy. We hadn't had a gas or electricity bill since we moved here 19 months ago, meanwhile they've been very happy to take £114 a month out of our bank account. There was a problem because our gas meter wasn't on the national register for this apartment, we gave them the correct details when we moved in and 8 months later then sent someone out to confirm these details.  We've given them meter readings, phoned endlessly got absolutely no where, the whole things is now with the Ombudsman.
However today we received our very first energy bill, up to November 2015, which showed us on that date being just under £600 in credit.  So obviously Extra Energy have decided to up our monthly payments by £12 to £126 per month.  I reckon even with the power we've used we are now about £800 in credit and will be adding an extra £50 to their coffers every month.  Today I spoke to customer services, the billing department and the meter department. Customer services asked for a meter reading, we have given then endless readings the latest a month ago, billing said they couldn't give us our money back or adjust the payments (except upwards obviously) because they haven't changed the meter number. The meter lady said yes she had all our details from 2014 but had sent the details off to the wrong place, apparently some independent body actually owns the meters, and then done nothing to find the right place.
I'm sure plenty of you have had the same sort of problems, its appalling, its enraging and it stinks.  The worst part is spending all this time and getting absolutely no where, speaking to the Ombudsman's office today they said compensation is usually between £50 and £100.  Our average phone call to extra energy is an hour because we start at the beginning every time and fight back when they try to fob us off with promises of action that never comes.  The compensation figures probably don't equate to the living wage for the hours spent. 
I keep trying the tactic that we are living on our pensions, we can't afford to give them an extra £50 a month to keep in their bank account and why should we, it doesn't have any effect.  I do wonder what would happen if we cancelled the direct debit, which we cannot alter ourselves (except upwards), would they disconnect a couple of pensioners I wonder, especially when it's like this outside today.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Day 5, feels like home

Yesterday Christopher the builder took away a lot of the old timber to burn on his house fire and today bags of rubble to use as hardcore for his drive.  I like it that nothing is being wasted.    'It looks more like a room now' he commented as I swept around. 'It looks beautiful' I replied, because although we still have a long way to go the opening for the doors has been enlarged and it is fantastic. The right hand side opening is complete, the left hand still needs cutting back an equal amount.  It's a bigger vista than I imagined, it makes me so happy 
The joiner seems to have done a decent job, nice chunky timber that is reassuringly well bolted together.
and the new roof is insulated with some of the board we had to store in the car.

As a temporary measure the old doors are back in place, the extra opening will be boarded up tomorrow.
Christopher is finished now until after the new doors are fitted in 3 weeks, next we need the roofing people to come and replace tiles and form the lead work.

I asked Mr FF if he'd been offered a job, apparently Christopher's existing joiner, who has an excellent reputation in these parts, is 70. Soon be time for someone younger to take over and Mr FF fits the bill by 3 years.  Apparently no offer has been made.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Day 3, the weekend doesn't start here

The boys have worked solidly now for 3 days and had hoped to be more or less complete today but it's been one step forward two steps back.
Firstly all the old timber has been moved into the lounge 
to make room to work with the new on the balcony.
The framing for the new doors has started 
and the joiner seems to be working well despite a slight miscalculation that necessitated a mercy dash to the next town for more timber
and later in the day a sprint to the ironmongers by me for more bolts
I'm not totally delighted to have timber cut in the lounge, you can see I keep sweeping up the sawdust away from the thoroughfare but I'm still so excited by the work that I can forgive the mess, no pain no gain.

Every evening we tie these blue tarpaulin sheets to the opening to keep out the elements, so far the weather has been really kind though pretty cold these last 
couple of nights and windy too.  Fortunately today the new ceiling is starting to take shape giving a bit more protection, you just can't hold that joiner back.  
The Building Inspector came today and is happy with the work and a Surveyor from the door manufacturers was here to check the accuracy of the opening, he too thought everything was fine. 
                              

Our builder will be here again tomorrow and possibly Sunday as he's committed to other work from Monday onwards.  It won't make for a brilliant weekend but hey, we're retired all the days are the same, we can party any time, if only we had the strength, both the joiner and the tea lady/cleaner are exhausted.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Day one

For some reason yesterday morning my bedside clock had lost an hour, I thought Mr FF was extra enthusiastic getting up before 6 and likewise the builder who appeared at 7.15 and looked puzzled when I said this is early as I let him in still wearing my dressing gown (I was wearing it not the builder).  
The carpet was taken up on Tuesday, we covered what furniture we couldn't accommodate elsewhere with huge plastic sheets and the insulation that we had been storing in the car was carried up to the balcony.
Here's a reminder of how the doors looked from the lounge
 They are out now
and the opening is enlarged but there is still more wall to come out.  The extra view and the extra light make such a difference already, it's going to be fantastic
but for now the penthouse is full of dust and debris, things have to get worse before they get better.
The stand in joiner/engineer/husband has gone off for timber this morning, he was exactly sure what was needed until the stud work and threshold came out. Apparently it was all a bit of a bodge up but I have no doubt whatsoever that it will be perfect when he's finished and a big improvement structurally.  I shall rest easy when I gaze out of the new doors, meantime when not providing the copious amount of coffee and biscuits working men need I am feeling a bit useless.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Spoke too soon (not so happy now)

Why does life do that, one minute I am posting about how happy I am, that we are booked to go to Italy and then wham.   We got a phone call on Saturday morning from our builder to say he wouldn't be starting work on Wednesday as planned and suggesting week commencing 02 May would be good, the day we planned to fly to Lazio for 2 weeks.  It seemed the joiner had had all his tools stolen (heard that one before) and decided to go off on a golfing holiday, as you do, leaving us up the Swanee.  We had arranged for fitters to come on Tuesday to take up and store the lounge carpet, the building inspector to come on Wednesday for a pre start inspection, to do a condition survey with the neighbours below us of their apartment to make sure we didn't cause any damage and for the window manufacturers to survey the newly formed opening on Friday.  What a miserable situation, we didn't want to cancel our trip having booked the flights and hire car but we didn't want to wait until mid May to get the work done and then be hanging around here into June to give the installation a good work out and make sure there were no problems with operation or leaks.
After a day of torment and what ifs Mr FF stepped up and he is going to be the joiner.  The joinery work is fairly crucial as we have to alter the dormer, but how difficult can it be, he is a structural engineer and will probably make a better if slightly slower job of it.  To be honest having been let down by the joiner I wouldn't have welcomed him in the penthouse at any time. Our builder is fine with this change of plan, in fact delighted to be cracking on, he has sourced some equipment and Mr FF and I drove yesterday to my brother's to collect various saws, hammers, work bench etc that we had stored there.  
And apropos nothing aren't these oranges lovely, I didn't buy flowers for the apartment this week because we need less not more while work is taking place, but these I couldn't resist and if necessary they can all be eaten by Wednesday.
Do let me know if you need any woodworking done, I may be recommend a bloke, who'd have thought Mr FF would have such a career change at 67.