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.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

I am so happy

We heard from Mario that he had been to our house in Lazio to cut the grass and tend the olives.  He said he had seen our cats on Easter day but despite being at the house for two days the following week he hadn't seen them.  We weren't too worried, at least the darlings had survived the winter and would now be able to fend for themselves with more creatures about to hunt and eat which might be why they had taken off.
So we were beyond delighted when we got this yesterday an email entitled here is your cat, Marzia tucking into food in the shelter.  

Admittedly it's not as clean as we left it, her blanket seems to have disappeared but my goodness she has grown and looks fit and well.  We are so grateful to Mario for looking after her and can't wait to see her and hopefully the other two. In fact Mr FF was half way to booking a flight out next week, allowing the builders just three days to complete the new door and window openings.  I did explain that wasn't reasonable, they just needed the miss a day for some reason and we would be in a pickle plus we would miss the Tour de Yorkshire.
We are going out the following week, we may have to leave the penthouse boarded up while the new doors and windows are manufactured, which is a good enough reason for not being here.
We will stay in Italy for two weeks, come back to have the doors and windows fitted, the manufacturers will carry out a survey of the openings before we leave.  It will be so wonderful to see the cats again and we will explain that this time when we leave them it will only be for a short while, we shall be back again in June and stay for ages. Bless their little hearts and Mario's too.

Friday 8 April 2016

Of course there is knitting

There is always knitting on the go but at the moment, so unlike me, I am flitting between projects.  Let me show you.
I found some 4 ply pure cotton in the charity shop £1 a ball and there is enough to knit myself another tunic which I have started.   I mentioned that the arm holes on the previous one were a little bit tight so currently I am decreasing on every 4th instead of every other row.  
I need to sit down and work out how the sleeves will fit in with this revision and when I can start decreasing more steeply.  
So while I ponder the geometry I have cast on a calmingly repetitive scarf using Berroco's Bittersweet pattern.  I had five balls of Hebrides pure wool 4 ply from The Isle of Harris Knitwear Co in my stash, 50g is going a long way so this could be something for Mr FF.  The 20 row pattern is quite manageable whilst watching tv and anything involving a cable needles pleases me.
I discovered this week that my LYS is having a sale, 30% of all yarn. The lady told me not to panic as the sale will be going on for a while but I couldn't stop myself buying a couple of 100g balls of West Yorkshire Spinners lovely sock yarn.  I've used this before in many shades so I was pleased to find these pretty soft tones and 200g might just be enough for three pairs of socks. 
At just over £5 a ball this is splendid value and I shall be back in the shop a few times before the sale is over, like later today and tomorrow and any other time they are open. The official line is that I need yarn to take to Italy for the summer, the truth is that last time I went out there with lots of yarn I was very surprised to see how much I already had in the house.  Stock control and remembering what I did a year ago are obviously not my strong points.

Sunday 3 April 2016

Here in the penthouse

Mr FF is stressing about the new doors and windows for the lounge.  A while back he placed an order, cancelled it the next day as he'd been given wrong information by the supplier,  stressed for a week about getting his £900 deposit back and sourced a better and more expensive option.  A new order has been confirmed but delivery may take 7 weeks, the builder starts in 3 so we could be boarded up for a while, delightful. We plan to move most things out of the lounge, cover what we can't shift, have the carpet taken up and use the second bedroom as a bolt hole.
Meantime we have finally had our windows cleaned.  You have probably been wondering how this is done on the 4th floor, simple 
The abseilers attach themselves to the top the building, there had been problems finding safe anchorage in the old stonework which is why they hadn't been around, but finally the work is done.  It was all very exciting and a bit James Bond, I was delighted I'd spotted the boys arriving as I could have been languishing in bed with a cup of tea and my book when they appeared at the window, which wouldn't have been glamorous or exciting for any of us.  I did get caught out once when we lived in our bungalow in Scotland, I saw the window cleaners coming round the corner of the house, sort of rolled out of bed onto the floor and crawled out of the room grabbing my dressing gown as I left.  
And I in an effort to become more Scandi, I have treated myself to these little beauties.  I first met the Lyngby vase in Copenhagen, my dear friends received one as a golden wedding gift and every house we visited seem to have at least one.  I love them very much, now the penthouse is full of hygge, well apart from the door and window tension that hangs over us.