What Makes A Hole Like This?


Mice? Thankfully they haven’t yet learned to scale the walls. Though they are working on it.

Death watch beetle? Eeek.

As a condition of our thatched house insurance we have to undertake an electrical safety check every few years. The electrician duly came, saw and, somewhat predictably in a house of this age, found things that needed to be done. He was an amiable and seemingly competent sort of chap so we engaged him to carry out the work as well.

Old fashioned rubber cables can corrode over time, with the potential to cause a fire, so should be replaced. In an ideal world the electrician would attach the new cable to the old and pull the whole lot up through the wall conduit into the attic, where it can be connected to the main electrical circuit. You’ll have guessed, especially if you’ve been following for a while, that the world of rusty duck is generally far from ideal. The area directly above the offending cable is constricted to say the least. It can only be reached by crawling through a tiny hole in a partition between it and the main attic. And then only in theory, because no-one has actually tried it..

Mike volunteered.

Confronted by the prospect of intermittent power outages and reigning chaos around the epicentre of works, namely my study, I issued suitable dire warnings on the consequences of misadventure and retreated to the relative safety of the greenhouse. Sometime later, covered in dust, Mike appeared at the door. “I couldn’t get through. Or maybe I could, but wasn’t at all sure about getting back.”

Thank goodness. Common sense prevailed. Can you imagine the embarrassment of having to call the fire brigade to get him out? Sawing through ancient structural timbers in the process? And in the worst case scenario, having to actually remove the roof? It would have made for an interesting conversation with the insurance company at least. Perhaps it would have been easier just to leave Mike where he was until he slimmed down sufficiently to exit the hole. I’d have passed up a copy of Winnie The Pooh, just to keep him amused.

And so on to Plan B. Nothing for it but to knock a hole through the wall to get to the wire. And did it end there? Ooooh no. The hall light fitting was next. I already knew that some of my floorboards would have to come up. But destruction and devastation find a way of spreading, do they not. By the time I next ventured a peek upstairs Mike’s study floor had been ripped up as well. And the side was off the bath.

Is it any wonder I find cleaning so pointless?


2018-03-27T18:31:44+00:00April 23rd, 2014|Tags: |


  1. Gigibird April 23, 2014 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    What you need is a small child. Or a trained cat…
    We live in a 1920’s bungalow which is a money pit and not even that attractive if I’m honest ….
    Cleaning? so overrated.

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Gigibird and welcome to rusty duck.
      Any house that is not brand new seems to be a money pit these days. The smallest job costs a fortune. We try to do as much as we can ourselves to reduce the cost but there are limits. Electrics is one of them!

  2. Christina April 23, 2014 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    We live in an old house too, so I know the problems! The holes look very neat, I’m not sure an Italian electrician would have done as well.

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      We do seem to have found someone who tries his best to minimise the ‘making good’. Worth their weight in gold.

  3. Pauline April 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    I hope your house is soon back to how it should be!

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Until the next time..

  4. Mark and Gaz April 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    We know that feeling all too well. We had our house fully rewired last year and the mess that followed the process….

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      I do begrudge it. At least if you spend a fortune on a kitchen you’ve got something to show for it after all the upheaval.

  5. Jo April 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    You’ll look back in years to come, in a beautifully renovated house, and laugh at these things. Ok, you won’t, but at least you’ll have a story or two to tell.

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      I should have learnt my lesson after the last house renovation project. Time dims the memory..

  6. Sigrun April 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Oh my goodness, never seen something like this. You know, I love the old houses in Britain, and I know also, that they are very expensive in running costs. But we have a house (45 years old) which is also expensive, there is always something, we live at a hill.


    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      You are right, there is always something. The list of tasks is getting longer, but we just chip away at it little by little.

  7. countrysidetales April 23, 2014 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Now, correct me if I’m wrong Jess, but I think you’ll find that hole has been made by the husband of a previous occupant, who was walled in for attempting dubious DIY and upsetting his wife in the process some years ago. It’s taken him this long to chip his way out….And let that be a lesson to Mike. Hope your back is better x

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      It’s a tempting thought isn’t it. Who would ever know? I could always blame the mice for the scratching noises that might ensue.
      Back is getting there. Would you believe I did it lifting a 3 inch pot? At least I can type sitting down now. Thanks.

  8. Marian April 23, 2014 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Always something here as well. As I write this my husband is having a hard time getting the front door as it should so it actually opens again. I told him to call me if he needs any help but sofar keeps calling my daughter instead. I have a peek though from time to time. Still, what they’re doing is far less adventurous than what you’re doing. An adventurous beautiful thatched house, isn’t that everyone’s dream 😉 So agree with you about that cleaning. It just never stops….

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:38 pm - Reply

      It was my dream too until we actually did it. It’s a lot of work, a lot of expense. And the spiders are awesome..

  9. Alison April 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Ah, the uproar involved in making changes and updates like this are so stressful. I hope things are back to normal soon.

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks Alison. It does make an awful lot of mess!

  10. Jayne Hill April 23, 2014 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Strangely enough, I suspect Mike will not find this post as amusing as the rest of us …

    1960’s bungalows are (nearly) as much fun as your ancient timbers and Gigibird’s 1920’s bungalow. We’re having a couple of windows replaced next month. I am ~not~ looking forward to it.

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Good luck.. I shall keep my fingers crossed for a dry and calm day!

  11. Crafty Gardener April 23, 2014 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    if it isn’t one thing it’s another, always something needing to be done, and what met codes years ago is so obviously outdated now. We are having a kitchen renovation and I know there will have to be electrical updates … all that money spent behind the walls so we can be safe 🙂

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      Exactly, all that money hidden away.
      I am hoping we’ve now seen the last of our old rubber cables. Plenty more work still to do, but it will be changes that give us more tangible benefit too. Good luck with your kitchen renovation. That can also be disruptive.

  12. Sol April 23, 2014 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Reminds me of when we had a previous house rewired. A young guy came in and started channeling walls out. I flipped. Absolutely bonkers. I went out side and shouted to the roofers (old boys), you know any sparkies? 2 arrived in the PM, I couldn’t understand a thing with their super thick Devon accents (I am from Devon before anyone says anything). And they rewired the whole house with out channeling all over the place. small holes top and bottom and pulled the wires through. this house is a nightmare, our 13th renovation and boy howdy can of worms!

    Good luck. don’t forget to put a cloth over your computers! dirty work!!!!

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      13th! Respect.
      On our last one I spent weeks and weeks cleaning off all the old oak beams by hand. Then we decided, rather late in the day, to have a burglar alarm installed. The young lad who did it spent a day carefully clipping the wires on to the surface of the beams.. I had a similar reaction. Ironically we ended up channelling, not huge ones for such small wires, but through brand new lime plaster. Lessons learned.

  13. knitsofacto April 23, 2014 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Oh the joys!

    We have a similarly restricted corner of the loft space which no one dares to enter for fear of failing to return, but now you’ve given me the Winnie the Pooh idea …

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      That would be a diet they would stick to wouldn’t it..

  14. frayed at the edge April 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    Oh for the Victorian era, when small children could do such work! When we lived in Hampshire I wanted a thatched cottage, but now I’m quite happy to have a slate roof (except for the bit that came off in a storm and damaged my few-months-old car!!)

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      Slate is a damn sight easier to maintain. Birds don’t steal it for nest making either..

  15. Em April 23, 2014 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    I don’t want to scare you but ‘they’ can actually scale vertical walls! x

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 11:08 pm - Reply


  16. Jane@hoehoegrow April 23, 2014 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Stay in the greenhouse at ALL costs ! It sounds as if it will be safer in there !! 🙂
    Old houses are not easy, and the simplest job can become very complex. I speak from bitter experience ! A few years ago our dining room furniture suddenly tilted to an odd angle, before sliding into the hole caused by the collapse of the floor ! Wet rot !

    • Jessica April 23, 2014 at 11:12 pm - Reply

      Noooo!! That sounds expensive too 🙁

  17. CherryPie April 23, 2014 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    i know how you feel about cleaning… We have had a lot of replacements in the last couple of years. I still can’t get rid of all the dust caused by cutting of tiles etc…

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      That very fine dust gets everywhere, we sealed rooms at times and it still managed to get out.

  18. Willow April 24, 2014 at 2:11 am - Reply

    That does sound like a lot o busy work
    . I think by now I would most definitely have gone to sit under a tree with Pooh and Christopher Robin !

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      Far less stressful!

  19. Anna April 24, 2014 at 8:06 am - Reply

    So glad that Mike returned from the other side and that you have the greenhouse to retreat to. It’s my refuge at the moment whenever Liverpool FC are playing.

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:24 pm - Reply

      At least when you return it’s to a happy house!

  20. Wendy April 24, 2014 at 9:42 am - Reply

    I sympathise, Jessica – we had to have our old cottage rewired, too with all its beams and fragile walls. Fortunately no one had to climb into any small spaces though! And dust just loves old cottages – so I completely agree about the cleaning.

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      The dust does seem to be particularly bad here, even without building work going on. Another old house cross to bear.

  21. SeagullSuzie April 24, 2014 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Oh rewiring and central heating is so messy and disruptive, done it many times to the various homes we’ve had. Squirrels and woodworm have been our main pests and starlings. I worked with someone who came home after New Year holidays to find no electrics and discovered squirrels had bitten through cables.
    I hope you get sorted soon.

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      The roof space is now full of armoured cable for just that reason. Squirrels and mice.

  22. Sue@GLAllotments April 24, 2014 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Look on the bright side – it’s an excellent excuse for putting the dusting on hold!

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm - Reply

      I’ve heard that if you leave it long enough it stops building up. I wonder if that’s just a myth?

  23. colleen April 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Well at least you have an excuse for the pointlessness of cleaning. I am sewing a quilt. The floors are covered in small threads and snippets. And pins, which can also be found on every mantelpiece. I am beginning to look like an absent minded aunt as I too am covered in pins, thread and snippets. There is a point when not cleaning floors – or ones favourite cardigan – can go too far I fear.

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      The worst for me was the stuffing for my reupholstered chair. I thought that would never come up from the carpet. It held on to it like it had claws. Look forward to seeing your quilt!

  24. snowbird April 24, 2014 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Oh I get how houses can become money pits…..and I’m with you on the cleaning too. These jobs do spin off into more jobs don’t they and my experience is that the chaps doing the work rarely worry about the decor! I hope the repairs are under way and the floor is back….and glad to hear Mike aint trapped!xxx

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      Floor is back… for now 🙁

  25. Rosie April 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    It seems that with an older property it is just one thing after another in the way of upkeep and preservation. I think I’d have retreated to the greenhouse too:)

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      There is something so calming about a bit of potting up. It’s my equivalent of the Man Shed!

  26. elaine April 24, 2014 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Sounds like the greenhouse is the best place to be at times like this – my worst nightmare

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      It saves a lot of stress all round Elaine. There are some things I just prefer not to see.

  27. sustainablemum April 24, 2014 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    Oh my that is quite some renovating going on, with very large mice! Electrics are troublesome aren’t they, they are also the one thing we pay someone to come in and do, lucky for us he is also our neighbour 🙂

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      You are blessed. If you have a plumber on the other side… perfect!

  28. CJ April 24, 2014 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    It’s a slippery slope. If you ever need to borrow a small boy, do let me know. They’re very good in tight spaces. I’m intrigued (and concerned) about the electrics running behind the bath panel…

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      Thank you CJ for the generous offer. A choice of three!
      Apparently they needed to find an earth and a copper pipe serves the purpose well. Don’t ask me how it works because I have no idea. But I have to say you have got me thinking… I shall think about it especially next time I have a bath.

  29. Sarah April 24, 2014 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    I did wonder if Mile was behind those holes! Sarah x

    • Jessica April 24, 2014 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Mike? If there is a hole to be bashed in a wall, he is there.

  30. Janet/Plantaliscious April 25, 2014 at 8:39 am - Reply

    I do hate the way these little jobs turn in to big expensive ones, it creates chaos and a large hole in the gardening fund. Would Mike’s legs made a convenient towel holder? Just asking…

    • Jessica April 25, 2014 at 10:08 am - Reply

      I love the way you always look for a positive out of any situation. A girl after my own heart.
      I think it was a picture that got hung on Pooh’s posterior wasn’t it?

      • Janet/Plantaliscious April 26, 2014 at 7:34 am - Reply

        Oh heck, I think you’re right, I’d better go back read it again!!

        • Jessica April 26, 2014 at 9:27 am - Reply

          A towel holder would be more useful 🙂

  31. islandthreads April 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    lol you do seem to have a bit of a saga running, but if Mike got stuck coming back out you would have the talking end on your side, might be better than radio/tv 😉

    seriously I hope it all ends well, my house has been slowly rewired over the years, I told my nice electrician that I couldn’t afford it all at once but did want it all done room by room, he ran enough cable around the attic for all the rooms the first time and then linked in as each room was done, finished last December nearly 6 years after the first room, it’s good to find a good electrician, Frances

    • Jessica April 25, 2014 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Frances, we were employing much the same strategy until the insurance company started calling the shots!
      I’m not sure having the talking end on my side would, in the circumstances, be necessarily a good thing… 😉

      • islandthreads April 26, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

        yes you could turn the radio/tv mike off!! 😉

        • Jessica April 26, 2014 at 9:28 am - Reply


  32. Linda@arichtapestry April 26, 2014 at 9:05 am - Reply

    I can relate, Jessica, with regard to the pointlessness of dusting at the moment (although I’m doing my best when I’ve got visitors and children here) as our project to create a downstairs cloakroom is underway involving application to the electric grid company to move meters, electricians, plumbers and hubby crawling in the space under the house, preparing the floorboards for new cabling and knocking down part of a wall, plaster-boarding and plastering etc. Hope your necessary work to the cottage gets done fairly quickly and you can get back to normal??!

    • Jessica April 26, 2014 at 9:32 am - Reply

      It is so disruptive and messy Linda, I sympathise. The only solace you can draw is that, when it’s all done, it will look fabulous and be worth it! A really practical addition to the house too.

  33. Cathy April 26, 2014 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    But at least you have elicited bucketloads of sympathy Jessica! 🙂

    • Jessica April 26, 2014 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      And quite rightly so!

  34. rachel April 28, 2014 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Rewiring our old house, many many years ago, I remember that a fishing rod for under floorboards was one of the most useful tools we used….. In this old cottage, most of the wiring (like the pipes) seems to be outside the walls, some of it disappearing into the floor from time to time, or ending up in a wall socket, and none of it in the least fathomable. When even the electrician failed to understand this very ad hoc system, I had a new circuit board/breaker thing fitted, hoping that it would protect us when things went badly wrong. So far, I’ve delayed replacing the bizarre bedroom lights for fear of what I may find….

    • Jessica April 28, 2014 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      The lighting here is a total nightmare. They’d obviously not heard of task lighting 30 years ago, most rooms have a single central hanging pendant with a very dim bulb. And as for the pipes, as a nod to ‘hiding’ those they are painted black where they pass in front of the black (uurgh..) beams.
      It sounds like your circuit breaker is a bloomin’ good idea.

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