Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Man in a skirt - Have Had a Lot On!

My last blog was 17th June 2015. Here we are 16th December 2015, 6 months on.

Thought I should make an effort and get a blog up. It may be a few months before I have time. On the 2nd January 2016 we pack the house up and will live for several weeks on a building site. I am slowly bringing our house into the 21st century, as best I can. Don't take a step back, we do have electric, mains water, operational bathrooms, tarmac road to it but its 300 years old and until 15 years ago it's main purpose was a holiday cottage. Earlier blogs give an idea of what I have been doing but basically apart from converting and merging two attached barns we have been modernising it as and when time and money allows. Now my seasonal work has ended until next April, this winters project is to complete the insulation of the house. As my seasonal work was late ending this year, literally the last day of November, mostly due to the very heavy rain in northern England, I have opted to wait until 2nd January 2016. Then 4 rooms in the house plus stairwell and bathroom will have the plaster taken off the outside walls. Revealing the stone, treated laths on pvc damp proofing will be placed with space age technology insulation applied to the top. With another lath on top, this will be covered with plaster board with an additional insulation behind. This will in effect reduce the heat loss of the house from 1, no insulation, to 0.2. The problem is catering for existing windows and doors and on one wall electrical sockets. Ceilings will come down in the bathroom and stairwell so that the rafters can be extended and the placing of 100 mm compressed insulation retaining an air gap above. At this stage all the upstairs down lights will be replaced with flush mounted ceiling lights. It also means that the bathroom needs dismantling! Being 25 years old and fair wear and tear showing it's another job that does need doing. I'll have a window of 12 weeks including establishing the bathroom with everything being in the wrong place for existing plumbing. Time for blog writing might just get delayed again.

Many who do not really know me often question what I actually do with regards DIY when I bring it up or they hear from others. It doesn't surprise me because I do not meet to often what I call serious DIYers. Yes the painters, decorators, put up the odd shelf here and there but most tend to get professionals in. I often hear some say they do DIY work on big projects but their involvement is project managing but not many ordinary individuals actually will replace a professional in most aspects of big DIY jobs. I'm also not surprised because most humans prejudge others on their own personal abilities and beliefs. I actually do most of our DIY. Plumbing, heating, stonework, brick work, internal doors, new door and window openings, complete kitchen and bathroom alterations etc. I put in our own multi fuel central heating system 15 years ago, with automated pump when hot water is drained from the gravity feed hot water tank. I only need professionals in for plastering, electric on the meter side of the consumer board or where by law you need to have a professional installer for example a gas/oil boiler installed and be CORGI registered in the UK. I have hand built internal oak ledge and brace doors including frames but I stop at external doors as you need specific equipment and work area for these doors as well as more regular activity in the making of this type of door. I can do roofs, gutters, waste pipes, SVP pipes, tiling of walls and floors etc. I've worked along side Building Control on my projects and since 2005 have drawn my own plans and submitted my own building extension planning applications. In fact I have over several years due to time and finance availability done two barn conversions attached to our house from start to almost finish. The only outside help was plastering and where the job required two physical people to be involved due to weight, height and logistics and that was tackling a stone roof that weighed approximately 10 ton per side in a 15 metre distance, new stone heads on windows and putting in a concrete first floor. First floor, not ground floor! Access did not allow cranes so it was myself and a local builder who is happy to work along side me. I just need to plumb two En-Suites and a Shower Room in the barn conversions but these were put on hold while we pursue air source heating, hence the insulation work. Last winter I tried to get the air source in but the new kitchen and other  jobs made this not possible, so air source is planned for March 2016. Air source is one of those jobs by law I need to have an approved plumber in but the company I'm using are quite happy to work along side me. They are fitting the air source unit, tank and modifying the house plumbing to connect and associated electrics but they are happy for me to put in the new radiators and pipework. They have specified radiator wattage output and the rest is down to me. The barn conversions have been the main activity on our site for a few years whilst allowing time for my seasonal work and a social life. I'm not a slave to it! Now the house is being brought up to speed. Believe me or not, it's down to you. There are a few photos on earlier blogs on this blog spot including this particular article but I have many others on my own web site in the gallery. This is by a man who wears a skirt! Shock, horror, the simpleton, queer, faggot and such other descriptive terms I have heard to me and of other men who wear skirts via Twitter and no doubt behind my back in the real world. I'm self taught, by talking and showing interest when I encounter other professionals. I read, show interesting and learn but most importantly I try and will have a go. I take what ever time is required getting quicker as I become more familiar. I am told a professional block layer with a labourer will lay 140 blocks a day. All walls in the barn conversion, upstairs and downstairs are block, including where I had to dry line and tank where the wall is built into the hill side. At my peak I reached 64 a day and on my own, that included mixing, cutting and planning ahead! I will not be as fast now, as I have not blocked in a big way for a few years now. Do I enjoy it, yes I do but I wouldn't as a job. I prefer certain days for certain jobs. I'm no good on roofs and ladders in windy weather. I also like to have variety in my life and doing serious DIY along side seasonal outside work certainly gives me variety. No day is the same, not even comparing every Monday, Tuesday... I have had many compliments from local professionals who know me and have seen my work.

During this last gap of absense I have been active elsewhere. On my Twitter account and since early November, 2015 reactivating my blogs on my web site This site in early November on wet days, has been slightly reorganised. My blog section now has a specific home page. I do intend writing articles away from the main area of current writing which so far have tended to be based upon society and gender. One are my thoughts upon Climate. I'm not against the theory of climate change but I do not have the hard line stance of it is simply being down to humans, we merely contribute to it. I have for years had an interest in this subject and being a balanced and open minded person like to take into account all that I have heard not just selected items. It will also go into some of the changes that are to come our way here in the UK and some that will not be changed. This will appear as and when along side other 'controversial' topics. I have put direct links on separate blog pages on this blogspot site below this article. There are 12 of them! I'll post a link on this blogspot site from now on and my general banter of the exploits of a skirted man will appear in between.

My garden season was busy this year but we did manage to get two 4 day breaks. The first was mentioned in my last blog, the second neither of us really enjoyed so I'll leave it at that. The area was disappointing for us but the National Trust properties we saw were very good. Yes I was skirted as I usually am when not at my self employment or DIY at home. This location gave me the most persistent and intense negativity towards a man in a skirt than I have ever before and since experienced. This was in August and with one or two other separate negative areas within my life one in September and one in early October and none since August due to my skirt wearing, I entered a period of low mood which slowed down some of my activities. I went to my counsellor for the first time in nearly 3 years to get 'reset' which has bounced me back and refreshed my mind on how to tackle society's persistent negative overtones in many aspects of life.

In June this year my wife and I joined a walking club. We have always walked and when we enter the married phase of life, club walking stopped and we undertook this past time with friends and allowing more time in life to cater for other activities that develop as you progress through life. Since 2010 we found our walking had eased off a lot. Partly due to ourselves allowing life to give us both a period of hard time where we both went to counsellors for two differing reasons but also for one reason or another the friends who did go walking stopped. we did go walking ourselves, been to the Lake District at least 5 times this year but joining a club seems to give you more of an incentive. I generally do not do fell/countryside walks in a skirt, for practical reasons but have over the last couple of years done one or two from home when I know the weather, also what the route entails but in August this year it was a particular very warm and calm day so I did a fell walk in the Lakes in a skirt as can be seen here. It can quite often, in fact nearly all the time be windy up on the tops of high hills and mountains but this day clearly was not to be. I did have a pair of trousers in my rucksack just in case but they were not required. We passed many people that day out walking and only two sets of walkers made negative overtones. The rest passed by as usual and also quite a few stopped to talk and not one ever queried what I had on. Joining the club has made us go out more often but it also makes us walk in areas we would not have chosen. I have lead a walk for the group and there is another planned for early next year. Do they know I wear skirts, I do not know. I haven't told them, why should I. Do others or do they talk to me about what they wear!

We have been out and about socially with friends, pub meals, concerts, theatre performances and yes in a skirt. A skirt and clothing as depicted on my site is an everyday item within my everyday life except for fell walking, self employment and most aspects of my DIY. Apart from my work and walking clothes, trousers are in a draw under the bed. Everything else is in the wardrobe. I do have the attitude, take it or leave it. I am me, you are you and if you do not like it, that's your affair, stay out of my life. This was seriously tested Aug/Sept 2015 but the counsellor got me to see things more clearly.

I have not had many direct compliments recently but likewise I have not, except for the 4 day spell down in south England in August had much obvious negativity. As always to date no direct physical abuse but every now and again the odd negative body language and that they are talking about me but not to me. They are the very small minority. Just as many talk to me in impromptu situations as they do when I'm in trousers. Society behaves no differently within its selfish attitude that is apparent in this modern era to others for varying reasons. Society will always criticise others for varying reasons, you only have to be different in one of many ways for another to think you are odd. I recall one negative reference towards me were a family of immigrants from Eastern Europe. How do I know they were immigrants, when I moved towards them they were speaking in very fluent non-English language. They clearly were not tourists and would this have made any difference if they were? Another situation involved a man with his partner. Men do not usually make negative overtones it is usually 99.9% women  if they want to look towards me negatively. This bloke obviously could not cope with me but his partner told him, I was within ear shot at this point, "to ignore and move on. People can wear what ever they want, what harm does it do".

Our life is very busy with work, personal interest and hobbies and friends that we have so it may seem a bit strange that I could entered low mood. Depression, which I have suffered for over 30 years is a funny thing and I wrote an article about it and its effects in November 2015. You can find it on my web site on the blogs page. On the whole since 2012 I have been and felt the best since my late teens but it's like an alcoholic, once you have it or are prone to be affected by it, periods of negativity can bring it on, just like an alcoholic having that one or two drinks. It can and quite often does, affect you. I do these days try to keep myself in a positive frame of mind at all times but this last September I need that outside help once again. Quite often I'll start to recognise that the low mood is starting to grab me again so I immediately do something that I know will only give me positive sentiment then go back to what I was doing. Its strategies.

DIY on the house this summer was fairly quite. I did start a project at the back of the house but I knew it would not be finished. To complete it I have to move the SVP pipe and this can only be done once the bathroom is physically altered in side and connected to the new pipe to the septic tank which is already in place and has been as I did the barn conversions in previous years. The ground floor of the house was built into the hillside but many years ago it was dug out and a retaining wall put up. This splits our back which is only 6m wide at this point to half at ground level, half nearly 2m higher. I am putting two steel beams along the back of the house supported on one end of the retaining wall as it turns back towards the house. The back wall of the former barns were not dug out and the old barn walls were very dry before I started putting modern requirements inside. This I'm pleased about as it did provide space for me to put up a large outside shed some 8m  by 11m. The back area behind the house makes it basically useless as it is. The two steel beams will be supported by a pillar in the middle, already put up this year and the second beam supported by a new wall I'll build where the house and retaining wall ends. Topped with block and beam floor and the necessary water proofing top this will make the back usable. This will technically make the back like a single storey house and even on the shortest day of the year, sun reaches this back area. The plan is to build raised borders for vegetable growing on the section that is on 'hard land' and use the 'bridged' section as the walk way.

Being practical and handy is useful and over the years we have been able to do and achieve many things which getting others in to do would not have been cost effective. The remarkable thing is this is also done by a man in a skirt as well!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Man in a Skirt - Another Time Lapse between Blogs.

As I said in my last blog, it is several weeks before I reappear. I don't spend my life on social media. I have since early 2013 spent about an hour daily, very, very rarely at weekends on Twitter promoting men in skirts but I do get fed up with that as well. About a year ago it dropped to every two or three days, then week, some times two weeks. Since my last blog here I didn't go on Twitter for over 3 weeks.

Social media has its place, it also has very good debates but on the whole it is simply a platform to many to speak one sided and narrow minded propaganda for themselves. They can hide behind a computer screen and not face those they critisise. They never stop and look at themselves or accept that in the real world everybody has a fault in the eyes of everybody. Recently I heard this statement from an MP on UK television:

"I don't want a tolerant society anymore, I want a society of respect because tolerance just sounds as if you are prepared to put up with people who disagree with you. Respect is when you genuinely admire others for their difference" Chris Bryant MP 11th June 2015 BBC Questiontime.

Many on social media as well as a few in the real world should note this but as is usually with human intelligence it can get too much to cope with. A new buzz phrase is now appearing on some media programs especially when on gender is that humans were built and designed for social interaction, to compete, lead and dominate. This is the "get out of jail free card" to justify human behaviour as normal and acceptable. We may be built like that but we have intelligence to learn, adapt and be accommodating.

In the real world I do not experience as much as social media portrays. Yes I do accept the real world does contain those who dominate, the aggressors, the narrow minded and selfish people. In the real world only a handful can say what appears on social media when face to face. It is mostly at a distance, away from you. The exception are the hardline and tough nosed males and females who express their ethos with violence. You can spot them and as an intelligent person maneuver away from them.

Out and about in the real world I see many, many, many just get on with life. No doubt passing comment privately if they see something that they think is odd. Only a very small minority will make negative overtones via body language because they see something different or what they consider not normal. What is normal? It is different in the eyes of everyone. For example Friday/Saturday nights is normal for many to get blind drunk. I don't!

As you know, I wear skirts 365 days a year regardless of weather. The exceptions are my commercial gardening, hill walking and certain aspects of my serious DIY. I do low level walks in a skirt, like in country parks, canals etc. I do our own garden in a skirt because unlike commercial I'm not scrambling over fences, dealing with banks of long growth including nettles and brambles. I'm not lifting petrol mower in and out of the back of a vehicle.
On the whole 99.9% pass by when in a skirt, quite a few giving momentary glances and then the 0.1% or thereabouts give negative body language but, and I have said this before, I get far more compliments than those who give negative overtones. Recently I have had quite a few culminating with many in a recent weeks holiday in Somerset UK. I have had on more than one occasion what I would describe as very macho, manly looking, calling to me to get my attention in a polite way complimenting my appearance by voice or thumbs up. While out and about cloths shopping with my wife I do not hide when attending the checkouts. I confidently walk up with my skirt or top and 99.9% of the time engage in banter with the shop attendant. Occasionally they compliment my choice and this happened three or four times whilst on a shopping excursion whilst in Somerset. In several stores when I walked in, in my skirt, top and scarf, many female attendants didn't just give the standard acknowledgment from training but a positive nod and wink. My wife had seen a particular skirt on a shop web site and and wanted to see it in reality. Whilst waiting as usual I mooched around and a female attendant came over and said "excuse me Sir, are you looking for anything in particular". My reply was "not on this occasion I'm waiting for my wife who s trying on in the changing room." She followed with "that's OK, I can see you have taste in fashion I thought I might be able to assist if you were looking". We then engaged in general conversation about the area, our holiday, where we are from etc. During that week I did get the usual quota of brief stares and the odd one or two who had to take it further but that's humans but they paled into insignificance compared to the rest.

A recent example of negative overtones was a few weeks back whilst on our weekly grocery shop. Entering an isle two men and two women were in conversation. One woman had to look at me whilst still engaging in conversation. We continued down the isle stopping here and there to collect items and I was aware on one occasion their conversation had finished and this woman and her partner had come down the isle and she was once again looking at me. I ignored and continued my way. At the end of the isle my wife realised she had forgotten something which was back in the next isle so I waited at the end of the current isle and as this couple came along side she said in loud clear voice "I do not agree. I simply do not agree". I turned to look and both were looking at me and I was about to say "are you talking about me" when her partner said "I have told you, live and let live, move on" and he ushered her onwards. Needless to say her hair style was typical male, tight tee shirt on, very casual trousers and trainers. All these clothing items are and were traditionally male clothing if we are to remain in society stereotypical clothing. I didn't see them again. They either had a short list or I was simply too much for her. Her problem.

Whilst in Somerset recently I did not put any trousers in my suitcase. Regardless of weather or events I was in a skirt and similar clothing as depicted on my web site All my skirts are a minimum 90cm in length.
I do have some that are better for windy weather so on the day we were to do Wells, Cheddar Gorge culminating ascending Glastonbury Tor I was in a more straighter skirt. At 5pm on Glastonbury Tor top, it was very warm but fairly breezy. My decision for the straighter skirt was wise. Met several people on the top and no issue but I'm positive one or two re-positioned themselves in possibility of a "Marilyn Monroe" experience but sadly for them I knew it wouldn't happen even though the skirt was flapping and I didn't have to take any precautionary action.
On the way up we got talking to a local out walking his dog. No reference to my skirt but he tipped us off on a suitable circular walk to maximise the event and make a circular route. Now when we went to Bath the plan was to do the Roman Baths, the Cathedral, walk to the Royal Crescent and catch a bus from the city centre out to Prior Park Landscape Garden. It was a warm sunny day so I put on a not so straight skirt. At the Cathedral we both opted to do the tower and Belfry tour, 212 steps to the top of the tower via the Belfry and along the Nave roof edge on the outside. The group was about 18 people and yes only me and my wife were in skirts. The group was a good cross reference of age group. Nobody made any comment or body language towards me, certainly not at the time. Going up was not a problem, the people behind going up spiral tower steps were not giggling or tried to take advantage of being behind, in fact very accommodating. Along the roof edge was fine, we have a stone parapet on one side and I simply kept my shoulder bag down my side. Along the internal roof walkways bending over double due to its height and me being 6ft 6 was not a problem, neither the Belfry. There were no ladders!!!! On top of the tower the view over Bath was worth the climb. I took 4 photos in each main direction. The rather more fuller skirt was lifting but I knew I had a very good lining attached to it which wouldn't lift. For the first time one or two in this group I felt were just waiting for the inevitable but even a fuller skirt with a sensible lining never lets you down. I took my photos had a brief look, bearing in mind heights in such circumstances are not my favourite and decided to squash against the wall near to the doorway waiting to go. The two female guides were great although I do consider that one did find me interesting but gave nothing really away. I was always conscious out of the whole group she was always looking at me. On the way down she led so I made sure I was the next one behind and although they were both open to questions on the tour I started up general conversations on the way down. Part of my conversation was about heights on edges and towers not so good for me but I am getting better. She said I showed no sign of it and had done well and asked why do I put myself through it.
I try to face my fears was my reply and also somethings I just need to achieve. Others like the top of the Shard or going above stone gallery of St Paul's is still too much for me as to flying. Need to to really prepare mentally to even fly to central France from UK and does stress me out.

We stayed in a Hotel whilst down there the deal, booked last minute, like 3 days before departure was good. No problems in the hotel with public from anything different to being out and about. Yes one night in the bar a group of four you knew were talking about you but to me I gave them something to entertain that night! The following night a mother and two daughters came in, daughters being late teen and mid 20's. They kept themselves to themselves for a while and then asked if we were on holiday. Conversation grew and shortly we all re-located around one table. My skirt wearing was queried but in a good way. Curiosity only and all three thought it was good and were disappointed to hear about the reaction of some members of the public especially from women. In the conversation it was very evident that they were very open minded on many aspects of life and also felt that the 'gender wars' in society were stupid. We are all human beings with the same emotions and feelings. Freedom of choice, expression and opportunity applies to all. At 2 am in the morning, some 4 hours later with the bar tender asking if he could retire we all dispersed. As my wife said it was very refreshing to hear two young people with such open and mature thoughts on many aspects of life.

On our departure day we stopped off at Dyrham House. One of many National Trust Properties. It is currently under going a 12 month restoration of new roof, and making good roof parapets and chimneys so consequently the house is packed up. The park, gardens and adjacent church are open as are 3 of the downstairs rooms to the front. Some of the rooms to the back down stairs are open via a guided tour but to show how conservation is taken during major repair work with items boxed up and large pictures covered. One or two specific items are on full view but basically the whole of the upstairs is downstairs. Seeing three rooms complete and how items are mananged under such circumstances is interesting but to compensate for not being able to see the house complete since early May 2015 the scaffolding that encompasses the whole house under one big tent has a dual role. It gives the builders full access to the roof obviously but above them is another platform and a good ten feet wide. It circumnavigates the whole house at high level looking down onto the roof, chimneys and the work to be done fully under cover. Two specific viewing platforms on the scaffolding have been created looking out to the front over the deer park and to the rear over looking the gardens giving access to views not normally available. Being a serious DIYer I was keen to experience this, knowing that the scaffolding will be much superior to the ones I have been use to on our house whilst pointing a gable and doing our house roof.
Despite my not having a head for heights on towers and ridges, scaffolding on our two story house has never been an issue. At the entrance what's available, to do and see is explained and we are told the roof experience is a must to see. So of we go, both my wife and I in skirts to venture and explore. We go up in the professional heavy duty workers lift with HighVis jackets on. The builders have their own separate lift and walking around above was fascinating, even my wife had to comment on it. I was so busy taking it in, taking photos that I forgot to take one of me in my skirt on the scaffolding aloft Dyrham House! It wasn't too windy, the sheeting over all the scaffolding helped but even if it was a windy day the multi coloured long skirt with good lining would not have been a problem. Getting back to the entrance to continue our journey home we were asked if we had had a good time and had we enjoyed the "roof experience". On arrival they kept on about the "roof experience" being a once in a life time experience so I could resist my reply as we returned back to the car when they asked about the "roof experience" and I replied I don't know if I had the "roof experience" or the builders had an experience. Going around many were simply staring back at me! There was no answer from the female National Trust attendants obviously they had never had such a reply to their question. After a moments silence conversation continued but not about the "roof experience"!

If they are any would be male skirt wearers reading these blogs or even my web site, please have the courage of your convictions. Yes you do get the occasional negative overtones from some but so too they many others for many other reasons, like looks, hair styles, etc even due to a disability. Be confident with yourself. The more who do it the more it becomes 'normal' in the simple minds of the many.

What else have I been doing. We have been out with friends including a day over on the East Coast for a change along the beach. Both of us skirted, but our friends weren't! Both myself and my wife have socialised by attending classical concerts and yes both in skirts. We avoid classical singing and harp playing. We avoid large music festivals/concerts simply because we do not like large crowds. Never have, even when in trousers and depicting the "grey male". We both like most pop, rock country & folk music as well as classical. We find classical and folk music can be found at small venues. Good orchestras appear at large churches as well as small quartets. In our area within 1.5 hours were are well catered for in this respect. We do like rock and pop but these attract huge crowds. Having heard Chris Bonington talk not long after my last blog we have booked to hear mountaineer Simon Yates speak. Talks like this I find very interesting with human behaviour. I've heard Chris Bonington talk several times over the years, even had a one to one talk with him but unlike many I do not go to idolise, to follow like so many in society do with celebrities. They are just another human being, like you and I. Yes better well known and perhaps at times with more money but that's it. I will attend or listen to them purely because I find their topic interesting to hear and learn from. I fell walk in the mountains of the UK but I could never do what these moutaineers do so by listening to them and looking at their photos I can participate in their experiences. I cannot abide idolisation! So Simon Yates is our next moutaineer to listen too and will add to my list of other moutaineers who have given talks. The other interesting aspect of human nature is the dress style at social events. When we go to mountaineering talks we both go in skirts etc, as if we are going out for a social evening. To us we are, and I do not doubt that everyone else is too. 99.9% of attendees could easily go for a walk out in the hills, just missing backpacks. It's like weddings and funerals. Funerals, majority turn up in black, doom and gloom atmosphere. Rarely look upon as a celebration of that persons life. Why black? I don't and it is frowned upon by those who do. If you want to go black and gloomy even if I do not understand that's your choice but please do not lecture me. I'm not religious but according to religion of the West we are here only temporary as we progress to the next life, heaven and glory. Why then does the ceremony have to be so morbid. Celebrate the persons life on the planet and if you are religious celebrate moving onto the next life. It's like weddings. The majority of females dress in male style clothing day in day out, and their behaviour and expectations is to shed the image of being feminine or anything that associates with the label of yesteryear of being secondary, yet come the wedding, that's all out of the window and yes the men in their penguin suits. Oh, humans and their intelligence.

Simon Weston is another individual with an interesting life story. We are to go and hear him speak in due course as well as going to an interesting Brass Band concert. Supposedly the best in the UK based in the US. Over here on tour. We thought we would give them a whirl. We have heard Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band who are regarded as the leading band in brass in the UK. When we heard them they didn't stick to traditional Brass Band music and it was amazing what they could get the instruments to do.

We've watched one or two films recently. Interstella is perhaps not too every taste but it's sci-fi which I like and with Sci-fi and the involvement of Black Holes lateral thinking can come into play. It's not your traditional story line but this is a film based around known science facts, jumbled together to make the story. It also covers, and this I also like in films, human behaviour. Like music we have a good general cross reference so from Interstella we have seen Unbroken, a true story of WW2, Exodus Gods & Kings, a bible based film, The Theory of Everything and the Imitation Game, both excellent films through to light hearted and very entertaining Paddington and a Night at the Museum 3.

Work on the house has now stopped due to my seasonal work being in full flow. I do need to do some small DIY jobs in the summer months due to being outside. One is a faulty lead tray above the window in the west facing gable. Most rains it's fine but driving winter rains it doesn't leak into the room but does leave a damp patch which dries with a stain. I hadn't pointed the gable until March 2014 so was convinced that was the cause but last winter it let me know that I may need to look at the lead tray. This means taking out part of the wall above the window to inspect. A good days work.

Even though the garden season came upon me quickly this year I did over a few weeks into May get the Kitchen and Utility fully finished. I have placed below 6 replacement finished photos of the kitchen now it is tiled and the cooker hood up. You will have to look at my last blog if you need to see what it was like beforehand.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Man in a Skirt - I'm Not Very Good at Regular Blogs!

Another 14 weeks passes and no time for interim blogs.

Firstly I don't live my life on social media. Real life dominates. I feel society discriminates against men like myself and is these days obsessed with being politically correct with regards womens issues, expectations and demands. Social media and the internet is rife with this yet men who have their own modern issues or even similar to those of women do not, or so many tend to state. Although many issues raised by women are correct and genuine all their arguments apply equally to men who do not want to follow societies expected labels, norms, stereotyping placed against them in many issues of life not just choice of clothing. Yes women, at times still do, but certainly in the past had many many restrictions placed upon them by society in many aspects, but so too did men. Society would not allow men to deviate and if they did were 'cast out' yet women have pushed for the change, primarily achieved this yet society and many women still expect men to remain in tradition, labels and stereotypical expectations. Although social media and the internet give individuals a platform to speak out about their feelings, of which I too have utilised, I still do not let social media dominate my life. My blogs tend to get the least priority, hence the large gaps in between, but since 17th February 2014 I have not been on Twitter to push my belief in true equality, freedom of choice etc, and this includes looking at my web site

That's my moan. So what in life has taken me away for the last 14 weeks. Apart from attending occasional concerts, theater etc, shopping for groceries etc and the occasional meal out etc quite a bit. In fact for the last 5 to 6 weeks we haven't even seen friends but that stopped in the last week of March and our social calendar with friends has been able to restart. As usual I wear skirts 99.9% of the time out and about in public and since my last blog have been to Hospitals with regards my wifes check ups, Northallerton, York, Harrogate, Colne, Darlington, Durham and numerous smaller towns/villages including the Lake District, Ripon & Boroughbridge.

You will know from previous blogs that my work is seasonal, gardening. Mid April to end of October with a few going into November. I don't wear skirts gardening for practical reasons. The in between months are usually very hectic doing projects on the house, all aspects with the exception of plastering I am capable of doing myself, yes a man in a skirt can replace plumbers, electricians, builders, carpenters... It's only the medical profession this man in a skirt cannot replace, oh and plasterers! I can do small areas so I'm sure with time and practice I could do it but for the occasional requirement I leave it. As we are staying in England, not going to France as previously mentioned we have knuckled down to continuing a permanency here in the UK. A lot of ideas, plans have been rekindled and activities within our lives within the UK increased. December 2014 was very full with planning, researching air source heating. Although I can plumb, the rules of installation necessitate an installer so I need to be confident and happy with one. After contacting several I have found one, who is even happy for me to do the plumbing of the central heating side just leaving them to fit the compressor, tank and the other 'gummings'. On top of this, now we are staying, the main bathroom of the house needs replacing. It is 25 years old and hairline cracks are appearing in the bath but it doesn't leak - not yet! The temporary kitchen I put in 15 years ago of which everybody speaks positively off has also been put back on the list for upgrading to a full modern kitchen.

This winter with taking the house off the market we were to plumb the shower room and two en-suites of the annex. The annex has been mentioned in previous blogs. We didn't do this ahead of selling as suites and tiles are personal and we were advised to leave these three rooms as a blank canvass. This project has been delayed as our enquiries have revealed that air source heating in the house can as well heat the annex on the same system. As air source also heats the water thereby no cylinder cupboard or header tank in the loft. It was pointless plumbing the annex until the air source is in. We are planning the air source later this summer as I need our garden income for 2015 to cover this. Kitchen & Bathroom suite was 2014 gardening. It's the only way we can have the house modernised and to our specification and this means I do need to do virtually all work myself as I have done over the many years on the four houses lived in since leaving school!

December and early January was taken up with air source and kitchen. My wife suggested I let kitchen fitters fit the kitchen as modern kitchens are quite complex. I considered this. We went to three suppliers/fitters. Two insisted they did everything and used there own electricians, plumbers etc. They also obtain appliances of our choice. The third was happy for them to fit only, leaving all the ancillary work like plumbing and electrics to me but I noticed they had measurements wrong. Our walls, the house is some 300 years old, are what I call banana walls, vertically and horizontally. The floor width is narrower than at work top height and that at the ceiling. They measured the work top width therefore there was not enough floor width to place them. They wanted £3000.00 just to fit the kitchen and it would be us paying for the time and alteration no doubt. We didn't pursue this any further, and I did the whole kitchen myself. Since October we had been acquiring some kitchen appliances taking advantage of offers and sales. My wife had already chosen the replacement appliances. We obtained the final appliances at the end of January and at this point had saved some 33% of the normal list price by taking advantage of offers like cashback and reduced prices. We also saved 50% of the kitchen units by going direct to a kitchen manufacturer online. We got the same units my wife choose with the kitchen suppliers/fitters but going direct and missing out the 'middleman' was a huge saving. Also granite worktops. These were on the verge of being taken off the wish list. Of the three we contacted no one was less that £5,500.00. Going direct to the granite supplier we had the same work tops for £2,300.00. An individual cannot fit granite as that person does not have the tools to cut and polish it. Talking to the 3 kitchen fitters I was led to believe that only they had contact with the granite people. Not so, and it was the online kitchen manufacturer/supplier that told me this. So we designed our own kitchen, the online supplier produced detailed plans and specs in accordance with our floor length and width measurements and they even produced proposed 'photos' of what the kitchen would look like. This all arrived on the 18th February, 2015 but we did not start until 17th February.

For two weeks prior to February, we were both embroiled in bureaucratic 'discussion' with 4 institutions. The four of them literally took our time up. One was with a land line phone provider which by then had knocked us off three times, the first three for three weeks each with no land line or internet. Mobiles in our area work outside but only inside if you sit inside the bedroom window. This all started at the end of November 2014. There is a local non-profit making organisation that provides a basic internet service, run by volunteers. It's fine but not for 'hungry' internet use. After numerous calls to the call company and being 'fobbed off' we contacted our local MP as the third week on the third occasion came. He had us connected within 24 hours and provided with a confidential direct phone line to a contact in the Chairmans Office of the company. Needless to say we went off the following week so I contacted the contact and our MP and within 3 days back on. Touching wood as I type, it has remained fine ever since. The other problem was with a financial institution over our password being locked and what a farce that was. Twice reset yet in the process of sending out temporary ones they accidentally suspended it so even the temporary one was useless. On third contact they admitted their error but we still had to go through the process. Can you not 'un-suspended' was our question, no was the reply. Needless to say we have since closed the account. The third was over a replacement water pump. Ours was old and noisy and the kitchen refurbishment has altered the utility also making provision for the air source. Parts like o-rings were missing. The sales rep agreed they should be there but apparently the company does not supply o-rings for the parts that fit their pump. I managed to get some locally but as they were not standard it was not easy. Also it was the interpretation of hand tight. Hand tight to me is no movement by hand pressure. No, in this case it is slack. If I turn the fitting slightly left or right it will leak. Leave as it is now it is fine. That's new to me in plumbing! How do plumbers cope I asked the sales rep when he came out to see us and the pump. According to the company he said, we are the only ones to complain! I cannot remember what the fourth problem was but from the first of February to the 17th, all four dominated our lives so the kitchen arrived and we had only started 24 hours earlier on the 17th!

The kitchen was not easy and I am pleased I fitted it myself.
Starting on the 17th, and as at 25th March just down to tiling. We took advantage of insulating the back wall which is an outside wall and north facing. I had to take off the plaster/cement back to the stones, place batons on, then multi foil insulation, more batons followed with plaster board insulated with 25mm insulation. This has reduced the room by 12 cm but now the heat loss on this wall is reduced to 0.2. We do intend over the next 12 months insulating all the outside walls of the house in a similar way.
The kitchen sink including plumbing and waste has been moved from the back wall to the front wall. This now puts our kitchen on to our septic tank installed for the annex in early 2014. When I complete the Utility and Bathroom we can stop sharing the tank with next door. The utility was disturbed as we had to make a large cupboard for the air source, provision to put the old sink in there as we had no sink and also make temporary connection for water. The water comes into the house at this point and goes up into the loft header tank and cylinder cupboard. As these will not be here in due course the water for the kitchen could not be tapped into from the existing hot and cold. I brought from the bathroom above the utility temporary hot and cold so that the new kitchen pipes can go from the air source location.
This needed holes making through walls that are 88cm thick. It took me three days to make 14 holes. I needed 32mm conduit to take 22mm pipe which is finished at 25mm. To accommodate holes for new electrical wires to the consumer board I had to drill 7 25mm holes as there was not enough space in the understairs cupboard to get the drill and 450mm drill bit which was 40mm in diameter so I acquired a 1 meter long drill bit 26mm in diamenter and drilled 7 holes straight through. These  holes were OK. taking about 45 minutes each, but as I had to create 7 40mm holes for the plumbing pipe and keeping the appearance of the rooms OK I held out on these even though the drill bit regularly got stuck.
We have stone rubble in the middle of the walls. On two occasions I had to bash a hole to get the drill bit out, on another I had to take out a large stone in the wall to get the drill bit out leaving a hole about 300mm square.
The last two 40mm holes I did by hand as this wall was 99cm thick.

The cooker circuit was on the wrong side of the room. This kitchen needs three circuits, hob, oven and compact oven. Three dedicated isolating switches are in a convenient place in the kitchen.
This was all modified. Sockets needed altering and two moving completely. A new fridge freezer circuit needed to go in.  As I have improved the house over the years I put the utility and fridge freezer on separate circuits to the house. As the fridge and freezer were no longer going to be in the utility this needed altering. The fridge is built into the kitchen units, the freezer now in the front porch. Integrated dishwasher has also been plumbed and catered for. We didn't have one before.
The number of units, wall and floor, have doubled in number yet the kitchen with it's cream colour and light green walls makes it feel much bigger. Mounting the base units was not easy and took many days. In the end I built a frame using 10cm by 2.5cm rough timber adding more layers of 2.5cm where required. In one area a 1000 base unit goes from 0cm to 10cm in a 1000mm length. The kitchen sink and joining units needed packing out 10 cm at the top to allow for the banana wall vertically. All seemed to be going well until I got to the fourth wall. Here the units to get them square were stepping back 3cm as each unit butted up to the next. Pulling them forward made them come to far into the room so the decision was to alter the whole frame on the other three walls by twisting the whole kitchen 3cm. This eradicated the stepping and still kept it all square.
Remember, I had to be accurate as I had professional granite fitter booked and in the process of the kitchen problems delayed them twice! When they came to take the templates, this usually takes no more than 2 hours. It took them 3 hours and the template taker moaned about the walls! The cupboard units were as bad. One block was easy in that the top was packed out 5 cm and the bottom corners, well one was zero, the other 1cm! Two single cupboards either side of the cooker hood are mounted on a wall that replicates the leaning Tower of Pisa. The biggest headache were the corner wall units. Corner wall units must be square. The corner wall units is where the base units go from zero compensation to 10cm in 100cm distance. The cupboards were the same at the bottom but at the top of the cupboards I had to compensate by 14.5cm.
For the cupboards it was easier to pack and mount a sheet of ply to attach the cupboards to. The ply was cut slightly short of the cupboard lengths and I cut the matching kitchen ends slightly bigger to hide the plywood. For the corner wall units it took me 5.5 hours just to put up the bottom edge of packing to ensure a square and vertical length/corner. This did make the top edge a bit easier to calculate, but it is not easy making a square corner when you have nothing square to start with. In among this I have had a qualified electrician in. I asked him to put in a larger and more modern consumer board and at the same time fit a voltage optimiser. It was an ideal time with the kitchen upset and the fact that I needed three cooker circuits. He was quite happy to do this knowing that I was doing the electrical work within the kitchen.
A voltage optimiser is good. It smooths out all the spikes and surges in the electric supply It also steps the voltage down to 220-225 volts from the 240 to 254 volts supplied. All electrical appliances work at 220 volts and this not only saves energy consumption but also excess heat within appliances. We have not noticed any difference in timings on appliances. Standard energy bulbs especially the old incandescent bulbs do have an effect but as we are LED lights throughout, a topic discussed in my last blog, no detrimental effect at all. The optimiser cost £325 but will save 10% to 15% on energy consumption. Just another element of my eco energy efficiency without being a "hard hat eco warrior".

The kitchen is in, operational and in use, it just needs tiling. I'll get the Utility finished first, then tile both. Once tiled I can fit the cooker hood over the hob. I should be back in the Utility in the next day or so. I have utilised this last week to catch up on items ignored and as our friends say, come back into the living. You do not realise the impact having no kitchen has in modern day living.

My garden season looms. Usually starts around mid April, I'm hoping late April. As we still have cold temperatures, frosts and winter showers this last week, hopefully it will be late April. I need to get the Utility done, and at least place the new bathroom suite in before I start. The bathroom cannot be completed until the air source is in, but I need to get my plumbing and waste in before the air source goes in, primarily for the plumbing connection aspect but also this then gets our whole house on our own septic tank. I do not see the point in paying maintenance costs for a shared one and ours for the annex.

After the bathroom suite is fitted, I can start to relax a little. Not completely. I have outside work to do before the air source and once we are into May, my wife and I will be having time out, going to places, walking the hills etc.

Booked time with friends are now back on the agenda so I need to accommodate this as well.

Perhaps you can see why it has been 14 weeks since my last blog and why since 17th February I have not even been on Twitter. We haven't completely hidden ourselves away, we have had some meals out, we have seen people we know locally, day to day activities I haven't mentioned and I have upgraded my tablet from the one I have had for the last 5 years and it was starting to give some teasing problems. My mobile phone of 4 years was upgraded and now I do not have sellotape over the cracked screen which I have had for the last two years. Both are a big improvement. As usual, where ever it is possible and practical I go out and about in clothing as depicted in the photos on my web site, Kitchen fitters I went in a skirt, sourcing materials and I have done clean work in the kitchen in a skirt, like carpentry, electrical. Most of my DIY I am in trousers especially going to Builders/Plumbing etc merchants. These still hold the macho male appearance, even female employees have this hard tough stance and yes, just as women say male dominated areas are hard for them, they are too for us males who do not akin ourselves to traditional male appearance/behaviour. Flexibility, practicality but at the end of the freedom of choice and liberty, just what women claim for the reason for their trousers and the wearing of male style clothing, items not so long ago were not allowed to wear and was frowned upon by society.

Watched a few films in evenings but the TV has had some good dramas on like Wolf Hall, Banished, Poldark, DCI Banks to name but a few. Three films stick out for me, Gone Girl - Ben Affleck & Rosamund Pike, Before I Sleep - Nicole Kidman & Colin Firth and the Equaliser with Denzel Washington.

We have the Imitation Game in stock to watch and waiting for Theory of Everything. We do not do cinemas.

I will keep promoting that this freedom applies to men just as much as women.

Until next time, hope all goes well for you all.

BEFORE                                                                     AFTER