The year so far…

It’s been a while, so here’s a bit of a catch up!
Yesterday I went to Liverpool Cathedral to hear Rob Bell talk about his new book – ‘Love Wins‘. I’d seen him do a Q&A at Greenbelt last year, so was quite interested to hear him in person talk about his new book which has already caused a bit of controversy within the church.

It was quite bizarre because quite a few influential people were highly critical of it via Twitter, even before the book had actually been released, so I decided I’d rather make my own mind up, rather than listen to emotional ramblings from people who can come across a bit arrogant at times!

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I went with Tom Green from Vinelife, and met up with Dave Bateman (who’s now living in Liverpool), and I also bumped into Tim Follin and his wife who were both there too. The place was pretty packed, and it was really interesting to hear his thoughts, but even though I think some of the stuff he said was quite though-provoking, I’m not totally sure I agree with all the points he put across.

After he did his main talk bit, he was ‘interviewed’ by the host of the evening, but he wasn’t really very good at it and asked pretty rubbish questions.  And then they invited people from the audience to ask questions, but again I thought there were a lot of missed opportunities, and Tom went forward to ask a question, but they wrapped up just before he got a chance to which was a bit annoying!

I bought the book afterwards, and I want to read it myself to see what I reckon – I certainly think it’s good that he’s causing people to ask questions about it.

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Christmas and new TV!

Yet another Christmas has been and gone… and for this one I decided to stay at home and cook myself a Christmas dinner in my brand new kitchen!

I think Christmas dinner has to be the best meal you can have! It has so many different things in it, and you’re kind of allowed to over-eat for that one meal!

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I cooked a joint of turkey and a joint of gammon, and also had he full works with sausagemeat stuffing, bacon wrapped around sausages, roast potatoes, and loads of veg!  It was washed down with a nice glass of wine whilst watching Christmas Top Of The Pops on iPlayer live on my laptop!

And by the time the Christmas pudding made it onto the table, I couldn’t have been more festive if I’d tried!

Once I’d had my dinner I just relaxed and watched TV for the rest of the day! It was a proper lazy day, and I did actually enjoy it!

And last week, just before New Year, I popped down to Tamworth to visit my mum, sister and the twins, and give them their Christmas presents.  I bought Brandon and Chloe some Lazy Town costumes – a Sportacus suit for Brandon, and a Stephanie outfit for Chloe.  The only problem was that it freaked them out a little bit!

Obviously they’re so used to seeing those characters on the TV that they couldn’t get their heads around the fact that they could dress up as them! Maybe they’ll play with them sometime in the future, but I don’t reckon they’ll get much use in the immediate future!

And in other news, I’ve bought a new TV for my living room!  I’ve had a big widescreen CRT for about 10 years and I thought it was time to get myself a HD set.  I’ve bought a Samsung 37″ Freeview HD internet TV – and it’s got BBC iPlayer and YouTube built in. I’m quite pleased with it… now I just need to get Sky HD and a Bluray player!

My new kitchen

new-kitchen

For the last couple of months I’ve pretty much been without a kitchen, because recently I finally got around to getting it extended and re-fitted, making it just over double it’s original size.

It was so small before – you could pretty much stand in the middle and almost touch all the walls!  I originally had plans drawn up in 2005, but it’s taken this long to get my arse into gear!  The builders started work on the foundations in mid-October, and then just before my birthday, they knocked a hole through the back wall, so I’ve been pretty much without a kitchen from then until now.

I’m really pleased with it – the kitchen units are from IKEA, and I’ve got a Velux window in a sloping roof above the far end which looks really cool and lets in a load of extra light.  In my original plans it had a flat roof and 2 windows, but I took the opportunity to get them re-done so opted for just one window meaning I could have cupboards on the outside wall.  I still need to put some flooring down – I’ve bought some laminate which Rob’s going to help me with soon, but it’s so good to be able to cook food in something other than a microwave!

Hand washing is rubbish!

As per the title, hand washing certainly is very rubbish!

washing-machine

A few weeks ago, the drum of my washing machine broke and the whole thing has dropped down, so it won’t actually turn round anymore (I basically put too much washing in it!), and so I’ve just bought a cheapo portable washing machine from Maplin. It’s kind of like a food mixer for clothes – you fill it with warm water and washing powder, and leave your clothes churning around in it for about half an hour.  So far, so good.

But unfortunately, that’s all it does!

So you then have to take the clothes out of it, and spend hours rinsing all the clothes to get all the soap of out, and trying to squeeze out as much of the water as possible. And because they’re still really wet when you hang them up, the clothes take ages to dry!

Not sure how much longer I’m going to have to do it for… I obviously need to buy a new washing machine, but with me planning to get my kitchen extension done sometime this year, there’s not much point getting a new one until I know what the new kitchen will be like. I may even start going to the launderette – although the thought of doing that is quite weird!

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Also, the Sunday before last, I went on another bike ride with Dave and Rob. Tom was planning to come with us, but had to drop out at the last minute, which was a shame. Although, since he’s such an experienced cyclist, I think I’d have been worried I was really slowing him down!

This time we didn’t venture too far – we cycled down to Chorlton Ees Nature Reserve, following the River Mersey from Didsbury, and then circling back to Dave’s via Chorlton.  I’m still a bit wary riding on main roads, especially with buses randomly pulling out, but I managed okay!

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It was actually a pretty cool route – for quite a bit of it you forget you’re so close to the motorway and built-up areas, and most of it was a dirt path alongside the river. When we got to the nature reserve, the route Dave was planning on taking us down was all closed off for some reason, so we had to double-back on ourselves a bit, taking a bit of a short-cut across to Chorlton.  All in all, I think we did about 12 miles which I didn’t find too knackering!

The weather was really nice too – pretty sunny, although since it’s only March, it isn’t quite t-shirt weather yet!

I’ve added photos from the afternoon to my biking photo album of Facebook.

Dodgy wiring

I know generally posts in my blog go on about how busy I am with work, and how tired I am(!) and that’s still true, and I may touch on that in a moment!

But I thought I’d write something that happened on Sunday that was a bit dodgy… I’d noticed recently that the mains switch for my shower could get quite warm sometimes, but assumed that it was normal, and just made sure I only switched it on when I was actually using it. But when I flicked the switch on this Sunday, it made a bit of a crackle, which I thought was odd, and then a few minutes later it did the same without me even touching it.

So I turned the power off and removed the plate to look behind the switch, and discovered that the live wire from the shower had welded itself into the terminal, and had burnt quite badly, and that the earth wire had melted through the plastic covering of the live!

Now I’m not an expert on house wiring but I’m guessing that’s not particularly safe! A quick trip down to B&Q to buy a new switch, and I now have electrics that hopefully won’t burst into flames! What is a bit worrying though is why it did it in the first place, and also why the mains didn’t trip when the earth melted into the live wire… need to get that sorted really.

Work’s still incredibly busy… have got quite a few projects on the go at the moment, and I’m desperate for some time off! I want to try and get some work on my house sorted but I just haven’t had the time. Hopefully next month should be a little bit quieter.

Right – need to get on with some work that was supposed to be done yesterday! Have a possibly interesting weekend ahead… may post about that later…

Random update

I’m really, really tired. I could really do with some kind of holiday, but now that I’m freelance, I just don’t like turning down work, which means I never seem to get any time off. Maybe in a few months I can grab a break, otherwise I’ll end up running myself into the ground!

I’ve been down in London this weekend filming some stuff for NuSkool. It was a performance of urban dance in Acton Vale so that I can produce a promo for them at some point. It was a very long day, but the kids seemed to get a buzz from it, and the community centre was packed on the evening which was great. I stayed at Prince & Laura’s flat last night, and then drove back today, stopping for Sunday lunch at mum’s on the way back up!

Today, the annual 10K run took place in Manchester, and I’m so glad I didn’t enter it this year! I found the training really tough both times before, and it really stressed me out in the lead up to it last year, although on the actual day I suppose I was glad I’d done it again. I guess the main issue is that the reason I did the run in the first place wasn’t really for the right motives… the only reason I signed up to do it the first time was to try and impress a particular person, and to give us something in common – and that obviously worked really well! And then the next year I just ended up doing it again and my heart really wasn’t in it for various reasons. Oh, well… I’m older and wiser now. Maybe.

Other stuff… last weekend I finally got round to fitting new skirting boards in my dining room around the chimney brest, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job even if I say so myself! Hopefully I’ll get a change to paint them this week, although I know it’s going to manic with work for at least the next two. I need to get round to sorting out a kitchen extension as well because I’d really like to try and get that moving before the autumn.

Shelves take two!

You may remember that about a year ago I had a slight disaster trying to put up some shelves in my dining room, and I managed to pull out chunks of plaster, and basically mess up a recently finished wall.

Anyway, in the last few weeks, I had a go at trying to patch up the wall (which has just had holes in it for all this time!), and then repainted it all, and now you can’t really tell that there was a problem there.

To be honest, the wall is pretty rubbish – it’s pretty crumbly underneath the plaster skim – so I managed to find some shelves that weren’t as heavy as the ones I tried to put up before, and that had a bit more support.

So this weekend, I attempted for the second time to put up shelves in my dining room, and it seems to have been a success! I’ve used much longer screws and better raw-plugs, so hopefully they should stay up! I’m not planning on putting anything too heavy on them, so it should be okay.

I’ve still got loads of stuff that needs doing on my house – but I have started getting things done after a long period of doing nothing! I want to get my kitchen extended this year as well, so I need to get some plans made up, then will try and get all the rest of the work that needs doing done at the same time.

Also, had a really good time down at VideoForum with James. I saw so much cool kit (that I would really like, but can’t afford!) And we also went to some seminars on lighting and I learnt loads. Now just need to save up some cash so I can buy loads of video stuff!!

Trashed wall

I’m in a foul mood now.

Decided to put up some really smart IKEA shelves on the chimney brest in the dining room – they’ve been waiting to be done for over a year now – so I started with the first one, which was a bit tricky to do on my own but I eventually managed it. I had another two to do, so got the second one ready, and decided that to get the spacing right between the two, I’d use a couple of box files to get the gap right, and place the next shelf on that to mark on the wall.

I did that, and turned away to get the end brackets and a pencil, when suddenly there was an almighty crash as both shelves went tumbling to the floor, hitting the old concrete hearth below.

So now I have two dented shelves with scratched chrome end brackets, but much worse I have trashed the wall, which was newly plastered last year (which cost a small fortune). The rawplugs have pulled loads of plaster out, and cracked a large section around each hole. I don’t know what I’m going to do because I can’t see how I’ll be able to do a patch-up job without it being obvious. So now I’m really fed up.

Also, I haven’t done any training this weekend at all – I planned to go out today, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. Arghh – why is life so rubbish?

‘Blind’ panic

Finally got round to putting my venetian blind up in the kitchen this weekend! I bought it last summer and it’s taken me this long to sort it out! It’s a silver one, which goes well with the rest of the kitchen, but it needed cutting down quite a bit to fit in the window. It wasn’t too difficult to do the width, but to get the height right I had to remove about half of it, which meant dismantling it and cutting of loads of cord – and it was pretty tricky with only on pair of hands! And then I had the added complication of not being totally sure how to put it back together again! So after a few attempts that just didn’t work, I took a trip to B&Q to try and get a look at a similar type there and see how it was made!

Nothing else exciting has happened really… got a phone call from Jamie on Friday afternoon and he was asking if I was busy because he was at the hospital for a MR Scan on his shoulder (‘cos he keeps dislocating it!), but he didn’t realise he was supposed to take anyone with him. They were saying they wouldn’t do it if he was on his own – which would mean he’d probably have to wait ages to get another appointment. Luckily I wasn’t too busy at work, so I was able to pop out for a couple of hours to just sit in the corridor whilst they did it, and then to follow him home in my car (because he wasn’t really supposed to be driving, but it’d have been really difficult to collect later – and he felt okay to drive anyway!) Didn’t mind though ‘cos it was good to get out of the office for a couple of hours!

Stripping all weekend

I’ve been stripping wallpaper all weekend – but this time not at my house, but at Jamie’s! He became a houseowner on Friday and he’s redecorating the whole place, but needs to do it pretty quickly because he’s got Dean moving in at the end of the month, and he’s got to rent out the third bedroom as soon as possible.

We started ripping down some paper on Friday night, but had to stop when his neighbour came round to say our noise was keeping their kids up! But I went back yesterday and today and have managed to strip two bedrooms, whilst Jamie and his parents got on with other jobs that need doing (like knocking holes through walls!). I took some ‘before’ pictures on my phone for him, and for the time-being, they’re here.

Doing the work on Jamie’s house has kind of made me think I need to do some on my house as well to try and get stuff finished! It’s kind of harder because my rooms are full of furniture and things, whereas Jamie has the advantage that his house is pretty empty at the moment! Might try and do something next weekend – though I’m not guaranteeing it!

Shocking sink!

Early yesterday evening I went into my kitchen, and as I turned on the light, my finger brushed past the screw on the switch and I felt a slight sensation as I touched it. So I turned off the power, and checked that the cable was okay behind it, but couldn’t see any problem.

Then shortly afterwards, I started doing some washing up, and noticed that when I touched the stainless steel sink, I was getting a bit of a tingling feeling. So I gave Dave Ciezynski a call (because he’s an electrician and knows what he’s doing!) and he said I could borrow a voltage detector to check it out. So I went and picked it up, but when I got home, I was able to touch the sink and screw without feeling anything. So I thought that maybe it was just some static or something so thought I wouldn’t worry to much about it.

Then this morning, I was using the sink again, and the tingling sensation was back! I tried checking it with Dave’s detector, but I wasn’t convinced I was using it right! But because the feeling was continuous, I was now sure it wasn’t static electricity from me. And also, I found that if I was wearing shoes, I couldn’t feel anything, so I was obviously earthing the sink when I was bearfoot.

Dave & Ceri came round early this evening, and he discovered pretty quickly that the sink was kicking out 50 volts! Eventually we managed to track it down to a problem with the lighting circuit, and then found that there was a slight nick in the live cable to a light switch I’d changed on Thursday, and that it had come into contact with the metal back of the switch box, so was causing the earth to be live! The only reason I noticed it in the kitchen was because it’s a solid floor in there, but basically every earth in the house would have had voltage on it! All fixed now, so now I can venture into the kitchen without fear of death!

Decorating blitz!

Smooth walls!I’m the Wallpapering King!

I’ve spent today putting up some paper on the walls and ceiling of my landing to give me a decent surface to paint on – and it was the first time I’d ever attempted the art of hanging wallpaper!

Mum and Elaine have come up for the weekend, so they were giving me a hand with it – though to be fair, mum was taking more of a ‘supervisory’ role! (Though I have got a cleaner bathroom now ‘cos she blitzed it whilst we were getting covered in wallpaper paste!)

I’ve decided that it’s actually quite difficult to hang wallpaper well, though I was definitely getting better the more I did! Unfortunately the very first piece I had to do was on the ceiling and had a light fitting smack bang in the middle of it – which was probably not the best thing to have to deal with when your doing it for the very first time! And there are still quite a few air bubbles which I couldn’t get rid of, but I’m assured that they should disappear as it dries out… not totally convinced to be honest!!

One thing which is pretty rubbish is that I’ve got a leaky roof, and it looks like a lot of water has seaped into my walls – the ones in my spare room are soaking at the top, so that room will need re-wallpapering, and maybe even part of it will need re-plastering once I’ve managed to get the roof fixed. And also, my central heating died a couple of weeks ago, so that’s another thing I need to get sorted… arghh!!

Dining room finally painted!

The decorating’s definitely coming on!

I’ve finished painting my dining room (apart from the woodwork) and have moved the furniture back in so I can actually use my downstairs rooms again! The other things that need to be sorted in there is some shelves need putting up, and I need to get a new carpet for the room and stairs, but I think I’ll wait until I’ve had the fireplace in the living room finished, ‘cos I don’t want it to get ruined when I get the builders in to do that! I’ve got a day’s holiday off work today to do some work on my kitchen… I’ve undercoated two walls, but there’s still a bit of wallpaper that needs to come off the other two, and I need to paint the ceiling as well. Don’t know how much I’ll be able to get done today, but at least I’m getting something done!

Other stuff – supposed to be going camping this weekend with Jamie. Not sure where we’re going yet… were talking about heading off to somewhere in the Lake District so we can do some walking and stuff. Hope the weather improves though… after a really hot couple of days last weekend, it’s been miserable this week. We’ve had thunder and lots of rain – I know some parts of the country have had floods as well, so I’m really hoping it gets loads better by the end of the week!

Decorating update, plus 10K run training

I now have smooth walls in my dining room! The plasterers finished it all this afternoon, and I’m hoping that it will have dried out enough by the Bank Holiday weekend so I can get painting it. The carpet is totally trashed though – covered in plaster and stuff! I was planning on changing it anyway – but now I’ll have to do it a bit quicker!

Went for a run up to Parrs Wood last night. To be fair, I probably only actually ran about half of it – the rest was more of a fast walk because my foot was hurting a bit – and I worked out that I did about 4 miles… that’s nearly 6½ km, so it’s on the way to the 10K on Sunday! Can’t believe it’s only a few days away – it’s going to be so hard! Think I’m going to try and run a bit tonight as well, although the later it gets, the less enthusiastic I am. If I can get out before half eight…

Easter weekend

I’ve had the whole Easter weekend off work, and it seem like absolutely ages! Probably because I’ve managed to get a lot done with the house. Jamie came round on Friday and Saturday to help with doing some DIY stuff, and I’d have got nowhere near as much done if he hadn’t been here! We basically did some work on my dining room, and bricked in the old fireplace, boxed in all the pipes, moved the ceiling light so it’s now over the table, installed some spotlights, and added some extra plug sockets in there! The only hiccup was when we added the extra mains sockets – it looked like there was an old spur cable of the socket we wanted to link from – and we checked all over to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere, so we just cut that and used it for the new one. Brilliant… until the next morning when I went to run some hot water for a wash… and no hot water! The realisation soon kicked in that that cable that seemed to make no difference whether connected or not was actually powering the boiler for my central heating!! I left it until the this morning to fix because I went for lunch yesterday with Jamie and Ryan, and didn’t get home until pretty late. So I got the boiler working again this afternoon, and have now also built a new bottom step for my stairs, after taking out the old one because it was far too big, and the wood on it had split anyway. So I got loads done on the room, and it’s not too far off getting someone in to plaster it all… then it’s just the finishing touches!

The only other thing I’ve done this weekend is that I went to see The Passion Of The Christ yesterday morning. I know it’s been out for a while, but it been the first chance I’ve had to see it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because of all the hype around it – but I wanted to make up my own mind about the film. I guess was suprised at how much the fact it was subtitled throughout didn’t bother me at all, and visually it was stunning. There were one or two bits that I thought weren’t quite right, but have made me think about stuff. And the portrayal of the violence wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I guess that’s more of a reflection of how we become desensitized to things nowadays, but I think it was more that the violent stuff was pretty much never-ending, so I guess the shock is the amount of it rather than the level of it as far as I was concerned. But all in all, I thought it was a really good film.