Four Days In November

Cold ones.



I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The day the boiler fitters turned up it almost got down to freezing. The chilliest night of the season thus far. We thought we’d been so clever getting the chimney swept the week before. Now at least we could have a fire. But by the time all the furniture from the dining room was piled into the sitting room it was hard enough to see the woodburner let alone light it. So the fan heaters came out instead, moved around from room to room on a needs must basis. The bedroom was temporarily disassembled to enable an electric blanket to be wired in.

And was the discomfort to end there? Of course not.



Secondary ground zero


Whilst the dining room, home of the boiler cupboard, saw most of the disruption it wasn’t to be confined by any stretch of the imagination. Regrettably the hot water tank, cold water tank and central heating header tank are (were) all located within a six foot radius of my desk.

For the first two days the boiler men left me mostly alone. The ladder was in place even if the dust sheets had yet to make an appearance. And there was the gaping hole of the loft hatch. As we know cold air has a tendency to sink downwards. There it joined the arctic blast from the permanently open front door seeking out with military precision the gap beneath the study door necessitated by the uneven floor. I was left huddled in a veritable wind tunnel. Note I didn’t say they left me in peace. Between the effort to bore a flue sized hole through a three foot thick cob wall and the inevitable radio I could hardly claim an undisturbed working environment. What is it with tradesmen and their radios? Is it the same the world over? With all the noise a man and his drill can generate surely they can barely hear the wretched thing. And yet every other occupant of the household has to be exposed to the constant boom, boom, boom with the volume turned to max.

By Day Three the weather had improved sufficiently to enable an escape to the relative sanctuary of the garden where I dug up four tender perennials and planted out four others of a hopefully hardier constitution. There was also a trip to the hairdresser. A blissful half hour in the car with the heater turned up as high as it would go. It was tempting to camp out in the car for the rest of the day. Or take up the hairdresser’s offer of a seat in their lounge area for as long as I wanted it, supplied with coffee and an inexhaustible library of back issues from ‘Hello’.

On Day Four, to add to the excitement, the water went off as well. With rain in the wind I retreated to the greenhouse and spent a blissful couple of hours pottering about and potting up, almost forgetting about the chaos reigning indoors. Almost that is until I ventured back inside to wash compost blackened hands.. Ah.

So was it all worth it?

Well there is still a lingering angst over whether the plumbing will stand up to the pressure. But so far so good. And that aside it does seem to be working perfectly. The house is warmer. Can’t argue with that. There is the luxury of a wall mounted thermostat so I actually have the means to turn the heat up. Even if it does have the annoying habit of returning to the original temperature just a few minutes later.ย  Positioning the thermostat with its digital display right by the stairs might have been a mistake. It’s far too visible there.

Then there is the small matter of relearning how to use the taps. In the past one simply turned the lever full on to extract the mere trickle that was to be had. Do that now and the tap explodes. In the bathroom the effect is to send water flying to all four corners of the room. I kid you not. But the hand shower on the bath mixer is a thing reborn. Never has it worked so well. And the bit of white plastic that had to be shoved under the diverter to facilitate any sort of shower at all? Redundant now.



Onwards then.


2017-11-14T18:22:22+00:00November 13th, 2017|Tags: |


  1. justjilluk November 13, 2017 at 11:30 am - Reply

    I feel your pain. x

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      No gain without pain, as my mother used to say.

  2. Gillian Thompson November 13, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I do sympathise! And completely agree about workmen’s radios. We’ve been surrounded by buildings being renovated for the past year or two and the radios are the worst part of it. As you say – how can they possibly hear them?

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      In a moment of desperation I did start googling to see what my rights are. Apparently radios have been banned on large commercial building sites, partly because they could distract from potentially hazardous tasks and partly because of the nuisance they cause to surrounding properties. The rules are widely ignored though.

  3. New Moons For Old November 13, 2017 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Nil desperandum!

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      I try my best!

  4. grammapenny November 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    splendid progress! onwards indeed

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 3:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks Penny. It’s nice to get one more tick in the box.

  5. Anne Wheaton November 13, 2017 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    I’m sure it will all be worth it eventually. We had our boiler replaced in the summer, which we thought was very well planned until we realised that not only was it the hottest week of the year but the heating controls had gone haywire so that the heating was on full blast and couldn’t be turned off. Would like to say all was resolved quickly but alas we then went the other way and had cold showers for several days. We’re just about to instal a new bathroom and I’d hoped you’d have done yours by now so I could crib your ideas. So much choice nowadays and everything works differently to how it used to.

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:07 pm - Reply

      I wish we’d done our bathroom too, but it was not to be. It all came grinding to a halt when we found out that modern taps wouldn’t work with the pathetic water pressure we had before. The new boiler had to be done first. There is a ridiculous amount of choice and it is a proper minefield trying to find the best solutions. Everyone we speak to has their own preferred brand and I can’t help thinking much of that is linked to what they can supply, which isn’t necessarily the same as what is right for you.

  6. Linda from Each Little World November 13, 2017 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    My sister-in-law just had her very old bathroom updated and found an unexpected problem every step of the way. I told her not to worry; she could live in a thatched-roof romantic cottage and then see what redoing the bath is like! Glad to hear that everything seems to be working. Our roofers blasted their radios but the man who painted our house (first time my husband hired someone to to it) did not bring a radio. Sometimes he softly sang or hummed to himself which was lovely.

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      I suppose I should have learned by now, especially as this is not the first old house, that nothing ever goes according to plan. Often it isn’t until you start dismantling an old structure that the problems appear and by then of course there is no way back. I hope your sister in law is enjoying her new bathroom with everything working perfectly. One day that may even be me too!

  7. Sarah November 13, 2017 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    I’m glad that the suffering you had to experience for those few days is now reaping the rewards, The shower sounds such an improvement. Sarah x

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      It’s chalk and cheese. I can now see what a full shower would be like here and can’t wait to get one!

  8. surreycottage November 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    You have my sympathies – when we moved in here, the propane gas water heater had been condemned, so our only hot water was temporarily supplied by the Baby Burco boiler that my husband brought from his old factory unit and the electric shower in the tiny shower cubicle that had been shoe-horned into the equally tiny downstairs loo. We had to have an oil tank and external oil-fired boiler fitted and our lovely boiler man was tied up for much of the time working over in Moorland, repairing and replacing oil tanks and heating systems for the villagers affected by the Somerset floods. He got the hot water going (amazing pressure – the over-bath shower mixer is virtually the equal of our old power shower) and then came back several weeks later to fit the radiators.
    Amazingly, neither he, the lovely guys who laid the concrete for the oil tank and boiler to sit on, or our electrician, felt the need for musical accompaniment at any time – I think they must be a rare exception though!
    We took the Tiny Shower out – it was neither a thing of beauty nor a joy forever and in any case, had clearly been designed for use by size zero fashion models, as the corner entry sliding doors acted like squeegees on anyone blessed with a *cough* larger frame.

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      We should really be having a shower enclosure here but it would also have to be zero fashion model size to fit in and I didn’t think I would cope with that. So it’s going to be an open walk in solution and I’m resigned to doing a lot of mopping! These old cottages present so many challenges don’t they. Worth it though.
      External boiler.. I wanted one of those too. But it would have meant excavating into the hillside behind the house, escalating the cost!

  9. Vera November 13, 2017 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Ah the joys of house renovation during the winter months! The booming radio, the always open front door, the uselessness of putting any heat into the house during the day because it all got sucked out again by the Arctic drafts…… I remember it well, and most thoroughly appreciate the warm house we have now!

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:37 pm - Reply

      Feeling the heat flowing back into the radiators at the end of the job was a wonderful experience. I think I must have tropical blood in me somewhere, I can’t bear being cold.

  10. Kris P November 13, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Yikes! Is there any reasonable hope that all of this will be behind you by the time the year-end holidays arrive? Having good water pressure for a bath or shower has to be a joy, though. The thermostat is a constant issue in our house too, although our issues are greater in the summer than the winter, even if it hasn’t stopped me from complaining of the cold and damp here for the past few days. However, I suspect you’d consider our version of cold (upper 50s to low 60s Fahrenheit) downright balmy. Maybe you “need” another year-end holiday trip some temperate climate?

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Downright balmy indeed! A year end holiday would be very nice indeed. The winter blues have started to take their toll.
      It may be that we complete the job on the bathroom come Spring. There is too much pipework and therefore central heating downtime involved!

  11. wherethejourneytakesme November 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Glad it is all going well and fingers crossed your pipework takes the pressure it is quite strong isn’t it – you can see why the taps won’t work without such a pressure behind them. We are on with our guest bedroom – no water to negotiate in here thank goodness.

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:52 pm - Reply

      It’s much stronger than I thought it would be. But, provided the pipework can cope, I’m not complaining. With each future room we’ll re-plumb anyway so the potential problem will diminish over time. Good luck with the guest bedroom. That’s a fun, creative project. You can afford to be a bit more daring when you don’t have to look at it every night!

  12. Mark and Gaz November 13, 2017 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Ahh the adventures of house renovation! All worth it!

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Definitely. Otherwise I’d have long since given up doing it!

  13. Diana Studer November 13, 2017 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    one very elegant heated towel rail up there!

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      The header photo? It’s a wall radiator, the style we’re moving over to progressively as we re-do each room. They are supposed to pump out extra heat. Can’t say I’ve noticed that but the house is definitely warmer overall so the new boiler must be doing something right!

  14. Colleen November 13, 2017 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    It is no coincidence that there is a passing resemblance between the first boiler and a Dalek. So evil
    are they that their evolved descendents share their driving mission to exterminate!

    Impressed that you beat them.

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      It’s the evil eyed Cyclops of the second boiler, the new one, that gets me. It shines deep blue out of the darkness of the boiler cupboard. The stuff of nightmares!

  15. germac4 November 14, 2017 at 12:03 am - Reply

    I feel your pain! It seems the world over, we all end up doing repairs/renovations during the rainy miserable months, and of course the workmen all have radios at top volume! I always marvel at the transformation of houses on TV series like Grand Designs, and the people who have done the ”grand design” are still standing!!

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Years ago I was banned from watching Grand Designs. Mostly because the owners always went over budget. Or had nervous breakdowns. Or both!

  16. hb November 14, 2017 at 12:10 am - Reply

    The wailing pounding tradesman radios once mandatory here have gone out of fashion–tradespeople have moved on to an earbud and their music-stocked phone nowadays. A wonderful improvement. So not everything is falling apart in the USA–just the politics. Hot water flowing generously for a shower must feel good after your wind-tunnel ordeal. Congratulations!

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Yet another reason why I should move to California. You will have to sort the politics out first though. Who am I to talk. We have Brexit.

  17. CherryPie November 14, 2017 at 12:25 am - Reply

    It sounds like you are in a much better position than you were before ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      All fingers and toes firmly crossed!

  18. smallsunnygarden November 14, 2017 at 4:13 am - Reply

    Oh, you have been through it – again! I’m afraid I finally resolved the complications of the modern thermostat by keeping it turned permanently to ‘hold’ at a rather high temperature… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      Yes, again! It does make you wonder what is coming next. I don’t think our thermostat has a ‘hold’ facility. But I shall go and look.. just to make sure!

  19. Anne November 14, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

    I was wondering how it was all going – might have known it would be tricky! Glad you have a warm house and hot water now. Enjoy it๐Ÿค—

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      The tricky bit was doing it in winter. But that’s the way of things in this neck of the woods. The good tradesmen get booked up months in advance. We booked it all the way back in July. Mostly it pays to be patient.

  20. Rose H November 14, 2017 at 8:52 am - Reply

    I don’t know why there’s always misery involved with home improvement Jessica.
    I have been lucky on the radio front, but l am afraid l would ban it.
    Enjoy the luxury of warmth. It’ll take a while to get used to the hot water pressure, but well worth it.
    Sending the very nest of wishes.
    Rose H

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      I think most reasonable tradesmen now recognise that the radio is contentious. We did ask them to turn it down, which they did to be fair and with no aggro. The volume did creep up again though. For the next project I think the best way forward will be to discuss the issue upfront, before the job starts. I can’t see anyone having a problem with that.

  21. Marian St.Clair November 14, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Oh, there’s nothing like a few days of misery (cold showers and all) to remind us how lucky we are to have our modern comforts.

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Absolutely! They were very good though, leaving the water disconnection right to the end. So although heat was an issue we were never without hot water overnight.

  22. Peter/Outlaw November 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Oh my goodness! Glad to hear that things have worked out well (so far) after the interruption. Here’s to the ancient plumbing continuing to stand up to the pressure

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      Hopefully as we progress with the renovation the ancient plumbing will become less of an issue. That’s the theory anyway!

  23. woolythymes November 15, 2017 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    I spent a week in Ghana….you’re living the dream!!!

    • Jessica November 16, 2017 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      I know. We’re very lucky.
      But I can cope with a lot more when it’s warm!

      • Island Threads November 18, 2017 at 6:28 pm - Reply

        woolythymes has said the sort of comment I was thinkging, for goodness sake Jessica cheer up, you are reminding me of my mother, she is now 99, losing her mind but still remembering to complain about everything, as child and young adult I woke most winter mornings to Jack Frost painted windows, only fire in the house was the livingroom, people are so soft these days,
        oh god! reading this post has turned me into a grummy old woman,

        • Jessica November 19, 2017 at 9:09 pm - Reply

          Frances I am quite sure you are not a grummy old woman! Itโ€™s scary though how much we come to resemble our mothers. Mine felt the cold acutely and she has passed the baton on to me.

  24. Cathy November 19, 2017 at 8:36 am - Reply

    You got through – hurrah! Enjoy the warmth – and the water,

    • Jessica November 19, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Bathroom next. The pleasure may be short lived.

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