Money! Money! Money!

This may be a short blog because honestly, I have so much to do today that my head is spinning! What has happened since we last chatted? Well, where do I begin? Firstly, the pension money finally arrived – although H.M. Revenue & Customs have taken a massive chunk of it in taxes. My financial advisor has applied for me to get some of that back, but that might take a long time, so I’ve put it out of my mind and focused on what I do have.

The boiler is booked to be installed on the 25th and 26th of August. We already know they will need to cause a big mess in the basement because an old and now illegal lead pipe leads out of my gas meter and connects to the main inlet pipe. This must be changed. Unfortunately, it goes under part of the ceiling which will have to come down to access the pipe. Luckily it’s only a tiny part of the ceiling across the entrance way to the basement proper. The boiler fitters will be handling that, and it’s all included in the quote. But, as I said, it’s going to cause a big mess.

Mx R is returning to Wales on the 23rd of August and won’t be coming back. As soon as they have left, we will move Franki and all their belongings back up to their old room and they probably won’t be moving back down again until the next time they’re on holiday from university.

The reasons for this are obviously because of the building work going on, but also because once that is done we are going to completely redecorate the basement to get it ready to be let as an Airbnb. This will involve a massive amount of work. My brother has been and completed all the electrical work that needed to be done, including ripping down now defunct wires such as TV aerial, Sky dish connections etc. All things that are no longer necessary with Smart TVs. This has left slight damage to the walls so I will need to fill and sand down all holes etc. All the woodwork which is currently painted a dark chocolate brown will need to be rubbed down, undercoated, and then repainted in a soft grey. The ceiling needs a fresh coat of paint – and this time I’m going to use the special Dulux ceiling paint that goes on pink and dries up white! All the walls need painting. I have two grey wooden floating shelves to fit, the old purple velvet curtain is coming down and grey wooden slatted blinds are being fitted. Cool contemporary is the look we’re going for.

As you can imagine, trying to fit all that work in around my job (and bearing in mind I’m still working an extra day a week) will be difficult. Franki is going to help me as much as they can so hopefully many hands will make light work.

It was quite funny when my brother came to do the electrical work. I now have smart new lights in the bathroom plus a new pull cord (mine had been broken for years). He replaced dodgy light switches in the dining room and office. Removed defunct cables in the basement and had to figure out a way to earth the electric meter to the gas meter. Imagine the basement room as a box, with the gas meter in a cupboard in one corner, then diagonally opposite in the other corner is another cupboard with the electric meter. He had to try and get cabling from cupboard to cupboard. Of course, he could have dug into the wall and buried the cable. But that would have taken time, been incredibly messy, and very expensive, and I would need to find a plasterer to make good afterwards. It was decided that neat white plastic trunking running around the top of the wall from cupboard to cupboard would be the most practical solution. The only trouble was a large wardrobe was in the way. As the ceiling at that point in the basement is quite low, it left barely any space for him to manoeuvre above it.

I sat upstairs hearing much cussing and thumping coming from below my feet. Then an idea struck, and I went down to see him.

Just a thought, but if you took the cable out of the other side of the electric cupboard, tucked it neatly over the window and then ran it along the lip where the ceiling dips, it would be barely noticeable and would take you straight to the gas cupboard. Wouldn’t that be easier?

He stopped. He glared at me. Sweat was dripping from his brow. I looked up and saw he’d managed to get the trunking up over the wardrobe and was about the turn the corner and begin the run down the long wall to the gas cupboard. He looked at the solution I had suggested, and his face turned thunderous.

Yes, he ground out. I wish you’d thought of that earlier.

Oops, sorry.

Whilst he was in the electric cupboard, he was horrified to discover the age and condition of my fuse board. Old enough to be the one Noah used on the Ark, he condemned it as unsafe and told me it had to be replaced. Another £400. Gulp. But, it had to be done, so I told him to go ahead and make us safe.

In consultation with my appliance repair man, Rob, we chose a new dishwasher and ordered it from a local supplier. It’s being delivered this morning, but Rob can’t come until Monday morning to fit it, so I’ve had to try and clear some space in the dining room for it to stand in until then. Update: it’s just been delivered so is all ready to be installed on Monday!

I know what you’re all curious to know is how is the car situation going. Well, I’m still taking the bus, but hopefully, yesterday was the last day I needed to. Franki and I, plus a couple of friends, have been searching second-hand car sites trying to find a vehicle within my budget that suited my specifications. It didn’t prove easy. It turned out we’ve living in a desert as far as decent second-hand cars are concerned. I don’t know if everyone else has decided to buy them rather than spend all that money on new ones, but there was seriously nothing. We had to keep expanding the area we were searching in and looking at dealers that offered home delivery. It would add to the price, but I didn’t have much choice. What with Franki’s return to university looming on the horizon, I had to get a car sooner rather than later. Plus, I was sick of relying on public transport. The bus to work wasn’t the issue, it was the one home. Unreliable, and always late, at the end of a long day on my feet at work, the last thing I wanted was to sit for ages at a smelly bus stop, then sit on a sweaty bus for forty minutes going on scenic routes of the local housing estate. An hour-long journey on the bus to make a ten-minute car journey home is a joke that soon wears thin. And, of course, there are no buses on a Sunday, so I must walk home. Again, a fifty-minute walk at the end of a long day in the kind of heat we are experiencing is not fun.

Anyway, we found a red Ford Fiesta on Auto Trader that I kept coming back to. Something about it gave me a good feeling in my gut. At £2680 it was the top end of my budget, but it ticked all the right boxes. It was a hatchback, an automatic, good clean service record, six months MOT, a warranty, only 48,000 miles on the clock, air conditioning, parking assist, etc. We contacted the dealer, a very pleasant-sounding man called Alfie. He did a live video tour of the car for me so I could see inside and hear the engine. I will certainly be channelling my inner boy racer with this car – it has bright red seats and a matching dashboard.

Many phone calls were made with Alfie and the upshot is I am in the process of buying it, sight unseen, understanding that I am protected by distance buying laws. However, my instincts are telling me both Alfie and the car are sound. All being well, Alfie will be delivering the car early Monday evening. As my next shift isn’t until Tuesday that should mean my bus travelling days are over. I will keep you posted.

We had put my old, tiny TV down in the basement for Franki to use, but it’s so small they had to stand it on a bedside cabinet to see it, which wasn’t practical. Plus, it’s not a Smart TV so we had to buy a Now stick to make it one and it was a little problematic. If I wanted to run a top-level Airbnb and be able to charge premium rates, I would need to provide a decent TV. I thought about it. Our TV although about five years old was still a lovely 28” Smart TV and would be perfectly adequate in the basement. So, without stopping to think about it, I bought us a Samsung 32” and the old one was relocated to the basement – much to the delight of Franki. The little 19” old one I have put in storage because I may be able to use it in the dining room.

I need a plumber to replace my old 1950s shabby bathroom suite. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a plumber? They are mythical creatures, like the Yeti. You’ve heard of people claiming they’ve seen them, but you’re not sure whether to believe them or not. I followed up on a few leads, but they were all dead ends. Either the plumber was no longer self-employed, he was too busy to even quote for jobs this year, or simply didn’t answer his phone.

In the end, in sheer desperation Friday morning, I googled how do I find a good local plumber? The first option that came up was to register with something called which would search for accredited tradesmen local to you. You simply entered your postcode and your requirements, and the website did the rest. Within minutes it had offered me five options. I requested quotes from all of them, and twenty minutes later Daniel from First Fix phoned me back. He asked for more details, got me to send him several pictures of the bathroom, and said he would get back to me. He then called again in the evening and arranged to come round this afternoon to measure up, look at the bathroom and chat about my requirements. He is so far the only plumber to respond, so I hope his quote is reasonable. His reviews are all good, so that’s reassuring.

It’s Franki’s birthday tomorrow, they are out for the day with Mx R as I originally was going to be working, but now I’m not, so I’m having a table at the Makers Market in the Market Cross instead. It was very last minute, but because I had the money I had taken the opportunity to stock up with all my books, buy a mini folding sack barrow, and mini clamps to hold the tablecloth on the table. All that needs to be done today is to laminate the blurbs of all the Blackwood Family Saga, The Perennials Trilogy, The Book of Eve, and Eclairs for Tea. We also need to make price labels for them. Franki has said they will help me with those later today.

Update: The car has been paid for and I actually feel physically sick at how much money I’ve spent.

The plumber has texted that he’ll be here in two hours.

Anyway, back to Franki’s birthday. As I didn’t give them a great present for their eighteenth last year because I was broke, I decided to make up for it this year and gave them £300 to do what they please with. I also wanted to buy them a little something to unwrap on the day. After all, a birthday doesn’t feel like a birthday without presents. Franki is obsessed with Star Trek – not the original series with Kirk, she finds that a bit creaky and misogynistic – but the Next Generation onwards, Picard etc. I found on Amazon a fabulous Star Fleet Academy hoodie and bought it, then Amazon informed me it wouldn’t be delivered until the 19th – five days after her birthday – so they still wouldn’t have something to unwrap on their birthday. I popped to Wilks when I got off the bus on Thursday evening and bought some pretty stationery and pens to stand in for the “something to unwrap” present on her birthday. Only to get home and find the hoodie had been delivered after all.

As I’m off to the Makers Market probably earlier than Franki and Mx R will be up tomorrow, it’s been decided that I’ll give Franki their presents from me this evening. I’m cooking a steak dinner with all the trimmings, which we’re having early because Franki’s godmother is coming round at 7:30 to see them. There is also a big fat chocolate birthday cake for this evening plus pink Prosecco. As soon as I’ve finished chatting with you, I must go and wrap presents and write in Franki’s card, otherwise, time will get away from me. I think Mx R needs paper as well.

Monday is also shaping up to be a very busy day. My appliance repair man, Rob, is coming first thing to install the new dishwasher. It will be nice to have one that actually washes the dishes, instead of giving them a lick and a promise, and one that doesn’t pee brown liquid all over the kitchen floor every time I use it.

In the afternoon, someone from Tapei Carpets is coming to measure up the dining room carpet and the hall, stairs, and landing. The hall, stairs, and landing carpet was fitted in 1996 and is dangerously worn over the stair nosings. You can also feel that the underlay has crumbled away to dust and it’s just floorboards underneath now.

The dining room carpet was fitted in 1999, but as it’s a through route it is worn as well, plus moths have eaten big holes in it. Apparently, modern carpets are all moth-proof! Fancy that.

I was going to hire professionals to do all the decorating but seeing how the money is slipping away and wishing to economise where possible, I have decided to decorate the dining room myself. I’m a good painter, I’m perfectly capable of doing it but am inwardly groaning at the thought of how long it will take me. Trying to fit anything around work and overtime right now is a struggle. Plus, my energy levels are not what they used to be. But it will save me hundreds.

The hall, stairs, and landing are a different matter. I can remove the carpet and much of the old wallpaper, I can even sand down the woodwork and stain it. I could even paint the hall ceiling and the walls. I can do some of the landing walls. But – my ceiling goes up ten feet over the stairwell. Not only is it impossible for me to reach it, but it’s too dangerous for me to even attempt. If I fell I could seriously hurt myself. I am the only captain of this ship; I cannot afford to be out of action. So, I will have to get professionals to do that.

Finally, Alfie will be delivering my new car early Monday evening. It will be nice to be able to drive to work on Tuesday. Can’t wait to see my colleagues’ faces when I rock up in my cherry red boy racer mobile.

The university has changed the date when Franki can move back in. The original date was Saturday the 17th. This was the only day available. The original plan was that Franki was going to travel to Chester by train on the 13th. Mx R is moving into their accommodation for their second year in the centre of Chester, so Franki was going to stay with them for a few days and help them settle in. I was then going to drive up alone on the 17th with the rest of Franki’s belongings and the demon hamster.

I was never keen on this plan.

It involved me making the drive alone. As I’ve never been to Mx R’s new house I would be trying to find it. It would also mean leaving me along with that hamster for several days, plus I would have to transport it by myself. Not an attractive proposition.

Anyway, the university is now saying that Franki can move in first thing in the morning on Thursday the 15th. Long hard thinking occurred, and Franki reluctantly concluded there was no point travelling all that way on the train for just two days with Mx R. That Franki might as well wait and then travel up with me. As their move-in slot is 9:30 on Thursday, we thought it best to travel up the night before and a delightful Airbnb room has been booked for me five minutes away from Mx R’s new home. Goodness, it was like trying to book a room at the Ritz. Because this host is what’s known as a super host, she can pick and choose whom she lets the room to. We had to supply ID and everything before she let me have the room. But it’s booked, so Franki and I will drive up early in the afternoon of Wednesday the 14th. On the way, we will swing by the storage locker and put as many boxes of Franki’s kitchen stuff in the car as we can fit in.

Franki and the hamster will stay at Mx R’s house that night, although I will take us all out to dinner. By having some of Franki’s kitchen stuff already in the car, we can get to the university bang on 9:30 so Franki can stake their claim on the premium cupboards in the kitchen. It’s first come, first served, and apparently there are desirable cupboards and some that are not so. Whilst Franki is playing with her cutlery and crockery, Mx R’s and I will head back to the storage locker and cram as much as we can into the car. Hopefully, because my car is bigger than Charlie’s little KA is, we won’t need to do so many trips. I’ll help get Franki settled as much as I can, before heading for home.

And then the summer will officially be over, and things will settle down to normal.

I must admit, I will be relieved not to be living at 100 miles an hour. The new part-timer has started at work and once she is up to speed, my hours will go back to three days a week, which will be wonderful. I am still trying to cram as much, if not more, into only three days a week off as I was into four.

Of course, the next focus for me now as the car and dishwasher problems have been addressed, the new boiler will soon be fitted, and hopefully, a plumber has been sorted, will be getting the house ready to register for Airbnb.

But that’s a problem for a different day.

Goodness, look at that word count. I said this would be a short blog and then rambled on for over 3300 words. I need to go. The plumber will be here soon, and I want to quickly clean the bathroom.

Take care of yourselves and I look forward to chatting with you all in another two weeks.

Julia Blake


2 thoughts on “Money! Money! Money!

  1. You are having so many things done my mind is spinning. Yes, a lot of money needed to be spent…. but all this work and purchases were needed. How wonderful it will feel as you head into winter snug in your up-to-date home.

    The best news is that you have a car. A bright red car. Congratulations. Tuesday you will be driving to work. And you can drive Franki to university. That always entails so much work.

    Also, wish Franki a Happy Birthday from me. I’m a huge Star Trek fan too…. from Picard on. Rewatched everything all over again in the last two years. 🤣😂

    All the best with all this work and decorating and painting. And glad you can drop back to three days a week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we are huge Star Trek fans in this house and have watched its many incarnations over and over again. Having a car again is a huge relief. I managed with the bus and walking, but it was hugely inconvenient and I was beginning to worry about getting Franki back to university.


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