Tuesday, August 31, 2004

SEEING THE LIGHT - Flies, bumble bees and a broken washing line

This post, I drafted in stages over 2-3 days, a week or so ago. But until today have not managed to post it. Kept it aside for further editing, to make it less verbose, but I've decided to publish it as stands while it is still fresh in my mind.

Lots to blog about but outside life has taken over. Seems like weeks and months of workmen, mess, sawdust, flakes of paint in doorways and on outside plants - speckles of paint on leaves. Carpenter has finished balcony. Outdoor decorator has just one days work left. Today was to be his last day finishing up bits he'd missed (I have a list :-)) but it lashed down with rain so he didn't turn up with clattering metal ladders at 8.30 am like he has done every morning for the past three weeks.

Instead, two electricians turned up to install three new outdoor lights. Nothing is straightforward. Here's what is involved when you get to the idea of replacing some outdoor lighting. First, you think about it, once in a while, for a year. Then, you talk about it, once in a while, for another year. And when the subject of electricians crop up in conversation with friends, you talk about it some more. And you get closer to the idea, so you add it to your mental list of things to do. And then winter comes. And so you add it to your written list of things to do in Spring. And then summer comes, and the outside gets painted - and the painter points out the old sensor casing in the main outdoor lamp has a slight crack.

He's up a ladder telling me this - and giving me the name of someone to call. I can't stand and talk and go back inside and back out again with pen and paper and go back inside again. Too much walking around gives me tingly numb spine and throbbing knee joints, sore gums and throat (weird eh?) so I make just the one trip -- back to the computer. And wait for him to walk back in so I can write it down. He gets all engrossed in his painting. And me on the laptop. Another day passes.

Next day he's up a ladder - and I am saying hello and asking him for the name of the electrician. He says the chap has now gone on holiday. But there's another firm in town - and gives me the name. I walk to another room to get the phone book - and walk back to the phone to call the firm and explain: lamp on balcony, another new lamp down steps - both on a sensor, and a replacement lamp outside back door. He says no problem, what's your number, I'll phone you and set a time to come round. I ask when will that be. He says sometime soon.

Half an hour later he turns up with a colleague in a van - without phoning. I get up when I should be resting. There was someone with me. And I could have asked them to open door. But the brain doesn't seem to work like that. Your nervous system turns upside down when unexpected people arrive and you are unprepared for the extra activity it involves. Mind goes into a sort of a spin - innards jangle with *red alert* because you know whatever is coming, you are not up to handling well - and you haven't paced yourself for it. And you know they are going about their daily business with not a clue as to how their just turning up will affect you later on. You just go on auto pilot and go through the motions of dealing with it. Someone calls at the door. Your reflexes make you get up to deal with it.

Get up. Open door. Bring them in. Can't talk while walking. Can't talk while standing. Usher them and ask them to follow me to the couch :-)

Settle back into my nest while saying what needs doing. Then have to get back up to walk outside to back door to point out where light needs replacing -- and walk back with them to front to show staircase - below balcony - where lamp needs installing -- and walk back up the steps to point out where lamp on front gable needs replacing -- with "something more seasidey". Walk back in and explain why I have to lay down on couch again. *brain starts to slow up* *feeling ill* *help* *can't think straight*

"Seasidey?" he asks, looking out of my window to sea. "Hmm what do you mean by that -- we don't have much of a selection on that sort of thing". "Well, you know", I say (throat getting sore, eyes starting to glaze, body feeling all heavy and ill like when you are at the height of flu and fever) "like a fisherman's lamp or something". "What does a fisherman's lamp look like?" he asks. "Well, you know", I say, "something that hangs down, art deco'ish - you know, pendant drop like, simple and plain". "We'll bring a catalogue" he says and off he went.

Half an hour later he returns in his van without his colleague. *groan* I can't take this many visitors in a week. Get up. Open door to let him in. The catalogue, one half inch thick, has five outdoor rust proof lamps to choose from. *brain foggy* Luckily, there was one similar to what I had in mind but it was in stainless steel (I was thinking enamel) and a bit too modern and not really fitting for an Edwardian property - but it'd do.

And he brought a sample of the back outdoor light. A bit officey looking but it'd do. I was right in the middle of interviewing a new cook which was a MAJOR task for me. And, I could see - out of the corner of my eye - the PAINTER clattering around outside the window with his ladder singing and whistling. All these people represent too much activity, commotion, talking and decisions. Help. *stress* felt so ill like you would not believe. Gums hurt, hair hurt, innards feel so ill and brain feels inflamed with flu. Ophelia went off out and away from it all. Clever pussycat.
- - -

Update - two days later: It's been raining which means peace and quiet at long last. No workmen. No holidaymakers strolling around outside. Five minutes after it stopped raining this morning, the two electricians unexpectedly rushed up the steps, clattering their lighweight aluminium ladders (this illness makes me overly sensitive to noise) -- *stress*

I asked, if they were using a good drill, could they please put up a new house sign. The sign has been here indoors for the past year waiting for external decoration to be completed. It's custom made. Oval. Solid lead. Natural grey finish with raised white letters that are painted with white enamel. Found the firm on the Internet - the only one in Britain that custom makes lead signs. That was a project in itself, finding a sign that looks natural, is not made of wood and doesn't rust in sea air. It took hours - and days - to choose and order.

And, guess what? It all went wrong in the post. It had arrived packed and sealed tightly in wads of bubble wrap and duct tape that made marks all over the new finish on the sign -- a friend kindly organised the return posting of it - liaised over the repair - and after four weeks it arrived back in my postbox like a ten tonne truck. Lead is heavy. The unwrapping of a heavily taped parcel is a MAJOR task - and takes lots of small attempts with scissors and a Stanley knife - over days to complete. *pain* *frustration* you need patience of a saint with this illness.

To cut a long story short, the electricians installed all three lamps fine. But *shock* the sensor was a separate item -- they'd affixed it to the wall inbetween the house sign and a drain pipe. A sinister black plastic thingy -- totally alien looking near the natural lead sign. *disappointment* involved ten minutes standing outdoors -- discussing alternatives -- while the sea started whipping up a storm. We were all keen to get out of the wind. Quickly, they gave me a few options to think over and said to call them back within next two days to make any changes.

Tonight I had to test if the lamps worked. *groan* -- had to walk again: out of my back door and gate and around to the front to approach front gate and see if sensor worked. It didn't. So I kept climbing the front stairs. *pain* Neither of the two new lamps switched on until I'd reached the top of the steps. The point of having the lower lamp installed was for it to light the way when you first approach the front gate. When the lamps did switch on, they switched off for 30 seconds. I then had to walk back in the front -- and through to the back door and out to lock up back gate - walk back in - close kitchen door and get back to the computer.

That small amount of walking around has given me a sore throat, numbing spine, burning muscles like stinging nettles, gums and hair ache, concentration slowing, eyeballs burning and feeling so ill. Which is why this post is so waffly long. And why I have still not been out since March 2003. But, at least there's three less things on my list of things to do - no four, including the new house sign.

Thank goodness it rained today because it meant the decorater did not turn up for his last day. He will be here on the next sunny day. If it had not rained, he would have been here to finish up before the electricians arrived. And it would have been a MAJOR project for me to arrange for him or someone to return with a ladder, sandpaper, brush, pot, paint, fungicide, undercoat and topcoat for the painting of the bare patch left by the removal of the old lamp.

Heh. Project wise, it's been a good day and Ophelia has enjoyed the rain. She loves getting her fur wet. And me drying her with a cloth. While she eats her fishy treats and I brush and comb her until she is dry. Then we both get tired and have a rest :-)
- - -

And broken washing line

This draft and incomplete and unedited post was written sometime last week. I've decided to post it because I know how I was feeling at the time, and want to leave it here as a reminder.

I'm laying here on the couch. Large window to the right, less than 2' away from my elbow.

Sun is shining. It's 2.30pm. Sky is blue. Few wisps of white clouds. Sea looks dark gunmetal blue green -- and deep -- and cold.

I'm watching loads of little white sailing boats out at sea - dotted around like KKK in the distance - along with a flotilla of smaller crafts with multi coloured sails: neon orange, yellow, pink and blue.

As I was typing this, I could see, out of the corner of my eye, a large square paper hanky float down from the top of the window - next to me - down to the ground. There's nobody on the roof or nearby.

Wind must have swept it up from the road - dropped by a passerby. It must have danced up to the balcony in an upswell of wind. Or a seagull dropped it from its beak.

Now there's a fly in here. Again.

Making the most irritating zzzzzzzzzttt. Like a high pitched dentist drill.

I just got rid of one two hours ago.

And, yesterday - a big fat furry bumble bee - the size of a small coin - took up my walking around energy for the day.

If I use up the energy I have left to sort this fly out, I won't be able to post to my blog.

I'll just have to put ear plugs in.

Becasuse I don't have the energy to go chasing around after flies - nor the speed and strength to swat them first time - I've found a way to get rid of them:

Hold out a sheet of paper or cloth facing the beastie - even if they are buzzing around at ceiling height - hold it up like a matador for it to see - slowly move towards it - and you'll find it will stop them from zooming past you and over your head into another room - move forward slightly towards their new space. It takes patience -- and three or four "retreats" on their part to guide them to an open door or window but it's easier to do than walking around, swatting and missing.

Besides, I feel bad killing insects as I class them as living beings. I'm mindful that we must appear like giants to them, and - incase they can hear - I try to be quietly gentle while coaxing them into my spider catcher (an empty yoghurt pot) that's deep enough to hold them until I can open a window and set them free. I'm getting quite skilled now at catching them and don't even need to use the yoghurt pot lid anymore :)

My feelings are they are living beings with as much right to life as we have. And any one of them could be the Dalai Lama -- reincarnated. Can't recall the origins of my thinking on that. It's something that's stuck in my mind since I was young. But whenever I see someone kill an insect, I exclaim: hey, don't do that -- it might be the Dalai Lama :)
- - -

A broken washing line can ruin your day - and the next day or two

Yesterday, one of my three outside washing lines snapped. It happened half an hour AFTER a huge double white sheet was hung on it. As the sheet was wet, it did a good job of absorbing sand and dirt on the already wet ground.

It hurt my arms to pick up and lift the sheet up - the other two lines were taken with other things, so I had to carry it inside. And lift my arms up to drape it over the corner of the bathroom door. *stress* it was too heavy to drape over - and too wet to chuck over the door end.

Couldn't hold it any longer and had to let it drop onto the floor. While I thought what to do. There wasn't any choice. Had to get it up and draped over the bathroom door or it wouldn't dry and stay fresh -- it had to get dry for the sand and dirt to be rubbed off before it went into the washer again. Didn't want sand getting into my machine.

Brain was slowing up. Couldn't think it through - while standing up. Had to lay down to rest brain for five minutes to think it out. I had shirts - on plastic coat hangers - hanging on the other two washing lines (using hangers are easier than a load of pegs that you have to reach up for - just one is needed for each hanger when it's windy, plus the dry shirts are ready for storage and easier to carry - less tiring as there's no folding involved).

It would have been better to carry the hangers indoors first and hang them up - then walk back out - lift sheet from the ground - haul it over an empty line - go back in - walk back out when it was dry - and walk back in again to drape it over the door so my home helper could deal with it when she arrived. Carrying a dry sheet while walking indoors and lifting it onto the door would have been less of an ordeal because it would not have been so heavy.

The sandy sheet - and broken washing line went on my list of things to do.

Update: When the electricians returned to fix the sensor, I paid them to fix the washing line. Now, they need to remove the sensor and replace it with a more powerful one so it activates the lights at the gate. This means the new sensor has to go up higher, on the gable of the roof - which means the first sensor will have to be removed -- and will leave four drill holes in the newly painted wall and a load of plastic rings that were used to secure the cable to the drainpipe (they were white plastic - so I had them painted the same colour as the pipe) will have to come off -- because a new cable will have to be installed because the other one won't reach up to the gable - the new electric cable will need to be secured to the pipe again - which means I'll have to get the ugly white plastic rings painted -- again -- and the holes in the wall repaired and painted.

Today the painter turned up unexpectedly -- to finish something off -- thrilled to see him -- because he left a brush mark smear of paint on my newly installed "fisherman's lamp" -- he had his ladder with him -- which meant I could cajole him to remove the paint from the lamp. Which he did.

When you can't do these things yourself, it's amazing how often you have to ask, grovel, cajole, enthuse, enlist people into helping with the smallest of tasks. Everyone is more than willing to help. Nobody minds. Except me.


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