Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Man in a Skirt - Where Have I Been?

Where Have I been!

You would be entitled to ask, 4.5 months since my last blog but I have been here. I have had sessions on Twitter (@theskirtedman) but even that has had "time out" over these last four months and the last time I was on Twitter was 6th December some 17 days ago. That I must remedy and stand up for the real "True Gender Equality". Many spout this these days, mainly womens movements and quite rightly so in some aspects of life in this modern era but I tend to find many of these are only talking about issues for women when many of life's issues affect both genders, illness, depression, suicide, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, murder, crime etc etc.  Thankfully, none of these affect me, depression did, and still could if I allowed it to. I do know many in this world do suffer from one or many of such situations. I as an individual feel strongly about it for them and because it could affect me in differing situations. I am also a big believer of individual rights and freedom of choice for all provided it doesn't affect the performance of society as a whole. I am also a big believer in gender equality for both genders and societies insistence of labels and stereotyping especially one sided labeling eg clothing choice to name but one.

I do keep thinking that I should be more vocal, on other subjects within life, not aggressive like so many do on social media. I regularly hear others views put very forcefully and opinionated to a point it is correct, don't you say anything else. Who is to say either is right, all you can do is move forward as best as possible with situations, but be inclusive with debates not one sided.

It is available time with me to be able to dedicate to his ethos. Since my big depression of 2010 through to 2012, I have bounced back much more stronger, determined and in some aspects of life more confident about me, the person, the individual. A lot of my activities I find interesting in life and suit me are very active and more intense than before. I have a page about myself on my site www.theskirtedman.eu and say that I feel that there is a gap of around 20 years where now I can see I let my life stall and to a point stagnate because of societies and others nearer to me applying labels, expectations and stereotyping at me, but never to themselves. I know many would not find my interests very interesting but we are all different and that is what makes the world varied and an interesting place. What I have and many do not, is respect for others, so long as no physical harm is done to others and the smooth running of society is not affected. My respect for others wains to nothing and I avoid them if they cannot offer the same.

I do not want my life to be dominated tackling others ignorance and I feel pushing more on social media would become just this. My time on Twitter, and this blog, my site and putting up comments as and when as I do now is an acceptable balance, for me. I should not let this blog be 4.5 months late though. I always try monthly, but not one has been monthly, usually 8 weeks but not 4.5 months. I use to spend about 45 minutes to an hour on Twitter, and reduced that during 2014 to every other day but other these last 4.5 months even that has had large periods of inactivity.

In the early part of the  last four months I came across a site called insideMan. A place for voices for men and boys but it is not one sided. Having sent them a few Tweets I was asked to do an article about my experiences of men in skirts in their series 100Voices4Men in the run up to International Mens day. This is the link to the article.

So where have I been. My wife and I have had time away either at friends, friends being here or just days out and yes I am skirted. Here is a photo of me this October in Stratford upon Avon.
I tend to forget to take photos these days when I'm out and about skirted but quite honestly it is not always possible to. My wife and I have had the odd evening meal out, been walking with friends, although walking I have not been in a skirt! We have been to social events and even this week been to York to see other friends. Each time I do get my usual quota of a negativity, but it is a small number in relation to the vast majority who just let life go by or engage in business or conversation with you. The odd man will form part of this small group but it is always by far and away women who will giggle, point, chatter and it is always women in their modern style of dress based upon male style clothing, trainers, chunky boots, and not in any former traditional female dress code. Yet they still expect men to be traditional and have no change. To me it is nothing but selfishness and a hypocrite. I have put up the odd tweet to #feminism and #everydaysexism and I think I will do so more often, They are keen to highlight what they do not agree with regards men.

My wife and I are both far more socially active since 2012, partly because I feel more settled and relaxed than I use to be but also because my wife took an opportunity to retire and leave what was a dominating, pressure and mostly an unthanked job.

But what else has taken me away from doing this blog earlier. My garden season boomed this year, it kept me very busy and as my wife joined me more clients were keen to utilise our service. I usually go very quiet at the end of October, with only one client keeping me occupied in November but this year with the warmth, wet and a good growing season garden work continued right up until 30th November. This seriously delayed the detailed research I need to undertake for the months December through to April on winter home DIY projects. I did do some research in November evenings, but I really needed the gardens to close for the season.

With deciding not to move and stay where we are I need to start to think about the house for the next few years. Working on it over the last 15 years it is in overall good condition especially as I have done 95% plus of it I could spend more time on the job knowing I wasn't paying professional prices and the professional just wanting to get the job done quickly and move to the next job.  The bathroom is 25 years old. We inherited it and the bath has some large hairline racks in the base. It doesn't leak but its age is showing. All this work will be done be myself. Altering plumbing, electrical updates etc. The bath will be re-positioned as we feel we can make better use of the area. I will take the ceiling down. When I did the house roof back in 2003 I knew the bathroom roof which has no loft space has insulation in but only 100 mm. I'll extend the roof rafters so I can place 200 mm of modern foiled insulation in still leaving an air space between the insulation and roofing felt. This will bring this roof into current UK insulation standards matching the barn annex and the main house loft. At the same time I can place flush ceiling lights, made easier with the ceiling down but also with LED light bulbs in use they give off no heat. The bathroom has no extractor fan so placing this in the wall, wiring it in with RCD and isolating switch is also feasible with the ceiling coming down. Being able to do this type type of DIY on my own makes my wife's and my resources stretch a bit further. Having chosen the bathroom fittings earlier we took the opportunity of the reduced prices of 20% on Cyber Monday and because the nominated delivery date of 8 days hence and confirmed by the company was missed, the delivery charge was refunded.

I'll start this work in early January. 29th & 30th December I'll finalise this years self employment accounts and submit my tax form for last year then I have a clean start on the bathroom. It also stops me from making a mess of the house of Christmas and the New Year.

The kitchen is also on the agenda. I put this in 15 years ago as a temporary job but all our friends say why? I have to say it does still look good. When I do a temporary job I usually still do it well but 15 years ago this house was a basic holiday cottage and the microwave took up the only work space and the sink draining board was rotten wood! Quick action was needed.

My wife and I live within our means. Since my wife has retired we live on the pension and the gardening income pays for improvements and breaks away. We don't need extravagant lifestyles, we drink minimal alcohol and do not smoke. We run our cars until they drop so changing them every two or three years is not a problem for us. Last years gardening income has been set for bathroom where I only need materials. My time is free and no professionals required. The kitchen is slightly different. Have they changed over the last 15 years, price, options, colours choices. Kitchen specialists were for us quoting silly money. Large DIY on budget units was still going beyond £10K so once again I start my research, I'll do the kitchen completely DIY, sourcing, implementing and designing.

We saw a kitchen style in the specialist shop that we quite liked, a higher grade than what we were being offered in large DIY stores and quite honestly the price difference between the two sources was around £2000. They were all not too happy with my involvement, one insisted they at least fitted the units but paying people for a job I can do only increased costs. We had a budget and access to a very small savings pot that could be raided knowing that gardening income this year would be needed to replace that rainy day pot.

Many hours leading to days research I found a supply only kitchen online outlet. In fact three or four but I liked the one we finally chose. They supplied all the styles and ranges found in the specialist kitchen outlets but at half the price. The downside is you take your measurements and you source the fitter and prepare a preliminary layout. For us that wasn't a problem. They provide alternate suggestions to the layout and produce the standard computer design prints, elevations and perspectives. Sourcing replacement appliances is at our control like the 15 year old cooker which is looking tired and the thermostat at times questionable. The specialists even large DIY outlets provide you with a price but are they competative. The ones we approached I asked for breakdowns and checking on the internet no they were not. I didn't realise that if you choose granite work tops where ever you go for a kitchen it is the granite supplier who takes the template, measures and fits. They provide the same service if you approach them or your nominated supplier but the cost is dramatically different. From the two other quotes we had going direct I have saved 50%. I have saved 50% on the kitchen specialist price for the kitchen units and the complete package is coming out 25% cheaper than the large DIY quote. Being able to source replacement appliances myself also means I can shop around for comtetivtive prices and take advantage of sale prices in December even though the kitchen will not be started before February. The best news is that my wife can have the kitchen she had hoped for completely within our budget without making compromise unless you want to call doing all the project managing and fitting as a compromise. To us, it isn't as you will see from earlier blogs we have recently completed a 12 year project on a barn annex conversion 95% on our own.

That blows 2014 garden income and means we will not be having a holiday in 2015, but pre 2012 we didn't have holidays so another year will not be a problem. You never know, late 2015 may provide an opportunity once 2015 garden income is coming in depending upon how much of that will be needed to complete both bathroom and kitchen. Short term blips are manageable its if you do it year in year out it becomes a chore and depressing.

I'm not an 'eco warrior' but I try my best with what is available in life at my disposal. I have always recycled long before council recycling collection came into the UK. As long as there were recycle bins in public places, I used them. I would always try and co-ordinate journeys which involved the car. I have always moved with light bulb technology as I firmly believe bulbs take up about 30% of domestic energy usage. In the 90's I moved onto the low energy bulbs even though then they cost about £10 each. I delayed moving onto the LED white light bulbs as these in the early days were a little 'iffy', 2010-2012 I was not in the right state of mind then moving to France I didn't see the need. Since September 2014, every single bulb in this house has been changed including the annex that I have renovated as you will know from my earlier blogs. I shopped around trying to find the most cost effective bulb, finding one place initially but when I changed more bulbs found an online outlet that had them for the same price but saved my petrol. Perhaps the transit environment element was not removed but to me, I would have to go specifically, the delivery van would always be on the road and one more parcel did not increase its carbon foot print. That's my "eco" philosophy. I learnt from research that LED are rated in lumens, not watts. 800 lumens is about the same as a 60 watt incandescent bulb. We have 5to7 watt LED, 400 to 450 lumens depending upon light fitting and location. The watt decrease in energy consumption is dramatic, especially in the winter months when lights are on for long periods. At £8.50 per bulb the projected energy bill reduction will off set the initial outlay in one year. They have life spans of 30000 hours plus. Ours give a much brighter light than our previous low energy bulbs.

I was in a large DIY store a few weeks back and passed a couple about in their early 60's buying bulb replacements. His wife mentioned LED bulbs but his reply was, 
"I'm not paying £9.99 for a bulb. These here have served us well in the past and are much cheaper." I noticed in his hand a 60 watt incandescent bulb. I had thought of mentioning my experience of LED bulbs but I soon realised as is so often the case with society they are always right, their views are correct. Anyhow I have had experience of sections of society that dismiss me without knowing me or my experience more so when I am in a skirt. Yes, that day in the DIY store I was in a skirt. Their loss, I moved on.

Time passed by quite quickly and creating time for this blog kept being postponed. I shall try harder in 2015 to be a little more frequent.

I'll wish all my readers a happy Christmas, I'm not religious at all but season greetings are expressed in the western world at this time of year along with happy New Year. For any other religions or cultures that may read this I offer no disrespect and wish you all the best as well.