Tuesday, 8 November 2016

I'm Back!!! And Still The Skirted Man

Last Blog, mid December 2015. Now its 8th November 2016.

All I can say I'm very busy.

As stated in my last blog, 2nd January, 2016 we did pack the house up and we did live in a building site. The kitchen door was taped up daily with a plastic sheet, and we lived in the bedroom we utilise as a study, including day to day things needed and two dogs! The lounge had a cement mixer in it as the only item except for bags of sand, cement and lime and the lounge was like this for 8 weeks.

We managed to insulate the house except for our bedroom before the first week of April 2016. That week the Air Source heating was scheduled to be installed and followed by garden season 2016. Thankfully the very mild March gave way to a very cold and below average temperatures for April and into May. In fact in early May we had a week of night temperatures of -4 degrees C. This slowed down the gardens initially but come mid May they certainly played catch up.

The insulation was a big job. It was down to myself and my wife. It involved taking the plaster and cement render off the outside walls, rake out the old lime mortar and re point with modern cement.
Baton the wall with 38 mm wide batons to create a 25 mm air gap, at 600 mm intervals, noting window surrounds and cills needed extra batons. This was then covered with a 1 cm multi foil insulation with a thermal value equivalent to 8 inches of rock wool. This needed to be stapled to all batons every 5 cm. Then the wall was batoned again to create another 25 mm air gap and topped off with plaster board that had 1 inch compressed foam insulation attached. This changed the wall heat loss value from 1,  not insulated, to 0.2. The Building Control Officer who had to check the work told me in the
UK all new dwellings have to have a minimum of 0.28 heat loss. Passive is the best but these need to be newly built installation.

The trouble we had is the house is 300 years old. The walls vertical and horizontal are a banana shape. The minimum loss of space is 12 cm but at times we did hit 15/16 cm in certain places due to the walls.  Window cills needed to be extended and ours are stone. I put these in when I had earlier modernised the rooms about 10 years ago. Electrics needed to be allowed for as the wall is slightly thicker than before. This was solved in various ways. In two locations the wall switch and socket are slightly higher up the wall. Others could be sorted by fortunately excess wire being nearby. We are only talking of needing about 2 to 4 inches. In some locations it was an ideal opportunity to increase the number of sockets in the vicinity so the ring main could be altered. Eg take the two wires from one socket, put one for the new socket, which gave the maximum distance then put a new wire in between. Our lounge for example had no sockets on the internal wall opposite the outside wall being insulated. A blind socket was created here to create the break in the ring main. In the lounge 10 years ago I built a stone and oak TV, DVR etc shelving.
This needed to be dismantled and rebuilt 12 cm shorter, as to the oak book shelving. Likewise in the study a built in wardrobe needed its door frame to be removed, altered and re instated but slightly narrower. We also had to redecorate!

The stair well gave another problem. It was a wooden stair case put in in the 1920's when the house was restored. It is former lead miners cottages abandoned in the 1880's with the demise of the lead industry and the estate restored it to put a tenant farmer in. It remained a farm until late 1980's, then sold and became a holiday cottage before we took occupation for full time residence in 2000. The stair case unknown to us was built directly on top of the original stone stair case and therefore not damp proofed. The owners before us damp proofed the ground floor putting back the original stone flags but the stair case wasn't. It was basically fine but we knew it was very draughty in the stair well and this needed to be resolved. The wood was also starting to show early signs of deterioration so it was taken out. We then discovered the original stone stair case but back in 1715 these were not damp
proofed. Also the top of it went to an early first floor level, lower to what it is now. We encased this old stair case in modern DPC giving good overlap as it was done in three sheets as the staircase is a 180 degree one. Also the previous owner had taken out the first two steps before it turned which was good for us. This allowed me to create enough depth as too the distance between the old stair case and current floor level so it could be encased on top of new DPC to provide concrete and 100 mm of compressed foam insulation behind every step and rise. This was then topped of with engineered 20 mm Indian stone flags. The two outside walls could then be insulated. The ceiling was taken down, the
rafters extended inwards by 100 mm to allow 100 mm of compressed foam insulation to go in with a 50 mm air gap between and the roof slate under felt. We did the same with the bathroom wall and ceiling. I am 2 m tall, and have a head gap of about 10  cm upstairs. The dropped ceiling lights in the two bedrooms, landing, stair well and bathroom were like mini roundabouts for me. These were all taken out and replaced with recessed LED spot lights. Also in the
lounge whilst the walls were dismantled I have installed 3 network cables, also 3 satellite cables. We do not utilise satellite but it is there for the future. The bedroom we use as a study, now also has 3 network sockets. There will be network sockets put in the other bedroom when by December 2016 we insulate that wall and change the ceiling lighting. The bathroom ceiling was done last winter but
the bathroom wall was not done until mid summer. April soon came. There is a lot of work involved in what I have described above, a lot of hidden work now you look at the finished job and at times work not expected. Apart from re-plastering the walls, all the work is done by myself and my                                              wife. We have literally put in 5000 plus screws!




April came, the Air Source heating fitted. Very pleased with it. We do not like over hot rooms. The main stat is set at 17, all bar two of the eight radiators are turned down from 5 to 2. One is left at 5, the dining room, an outside wall we cannot insulate due to logistics. The other is the stairwell as one radiator must not have any thermostatic valves on it. We are warm. Only since 1st November have we put on jumpers or cardigans. It gives off a different form of heat. The radiators never get too hot you cannot keep your hands on. People who come in for the first time say it's warm, and suggest 20/21 degrees C. Very surprised when I tell them 17 and room temperature 18 to 18.5 then put a thermometer in the room. As the winter period progresses we may increase the main room stat but we'll wait at the moment.

The insulation slows down the heat loss and also heat generated from us as humans, other appliances like TV, fridge, dish washer etc contribute now the heat loss is restricted. In May when we had a week of -4 over night we never needed to up the main stat. We are so pleased with it the heat pump installed was large enough to accommodate the the barn conversion in due course. We have booked them to do this in November 2016 and when we insulate the bedroom when the garden season closes this month we are to take the plaster off the outside walls of the barn conversion even though only done two years ago and insulate them as we have the house. The outcome is just to great not too.

The installer company who is MCS approved have said we will be able to heat the whole house which will by the end of November have 16 radiators, including hot water for less than £1000 pa down to -5 degrees. On our old heating on a mild Autumn/Winter cost us £1400 pa more if it got cold and the barn conversion just keeping it aired at 10 degrees was £600 on a mild Autumn/Winter. As we have moved from a fossil fuel central heating system and because it was coal based we have been able to take advantage of a UK Government incentive scheme known as RHI, Renewable Heat Incentive. Based upon our house Green Report this qualifies us for £1700 pa for the next 7 years. This covers the cost of the Air Source Heat Pump installation. The saving of heating costs means the whole system will be repaid within 4 years. If we had not insulated the house and barn conversion as we have we would need a 16Kw Heat pump with no surplus capacity below -5 degrees C. The insulation dropped this to 7.1Kw so we opted for the 12 not the 8 Kw. The cost saving on the Kw downgrade has paid a good 50% of the insulation overheads, so 5 years to cover this extra.

It is a project worth doing as far as we are concerned.  We know some disagree with us and we also know if we did hot enjoy doing this level of DIY the insulation would not have been done. The Bathroom insulated wall was done mid summer as we ran out of time before April. This needed a change in bath and toilet location once done, putting the house bathroom onto our septic tank installed for the barn conversion. This was done over two long weekends and in between garden days.

You will note from the last blog, late last year I started to enclose a retaining wall at the back of the house. It made the back useless,
splitting a 10 foot wide but long area in two with this almost 2 meter high wall. This august I finished it among the garden work.





I mentioned in my last blog we joined a local Ramblers Group in mid 2015. This has continued and we go as often as we can, quite often really. I am now on the committee. I have since November 2015 lead 8 walks for them.

In May of 2016 my wife an I started to do one day a week Room Steward volunteering for the National Trust. This we really do enjoy and from February 2017 I am to be one of their Day Leaders. A voluntary role but I basically co-ordinate volunteers for one day of the week each week.

Gardens were very busy this year. Once we got past mid May they boomed. Hedges and wall climbers I would normally trim once a year. Some hedges were done three times, four houses needed wall climbers doing twice which can only be done off ladders. Grass grew and for a while some fortnightly gardens became weekly. We have at least 5 more full days in November after this blog to close the gardens. Hope the weather holds a bit longer.

You can start to see why this blog got left. We only had time to do two private walks in the Lake District this summer when previously would have been there more. We only managed to get one long weekend away. My wife still needs regular hospital checks for her eye sight, and Polymyalgia and this year for a root canal that our dentist could not resolve and needed more detailed work via a hospital.

Now I have not mentioned my skirt wearing so far. I still do it. The usual exceptions fell walking, but do the occasional one with just myself and my wife. Most DIY and gardening for obvious reasons. Other wise, skirts, tops, cardigans and scarfs are my staple clothing choice. Every where, Dentists, Doctors, Hospitals, all social events etc. I am not ashamed of it even though I know some do. I firmly believe in this modern era that freedom of choice and expression in clothing applies to men just as much as women. The same arguments for women in clothing choice applies equally to men. I wear skirts for my National Trust volunteer work with no issue. One has made it known she does not agree with it but then she moans about everything when at meetings. Any activity at the National Trust property I am in the clothing as shown on my web site www.theskirtedma.eu. I am well treated by all, who engage in banter and chat with with no obvious issue. With regards visitors, you cannot see everybody and over this last season I am aware of perhaps about 5 that gave negative looks and deliberately avoided me but with the masses of the public the odds of meeting these narrow minded and yes selfish bigoted people increase. Quite honestly on average I will have seen thousands of people at the NT and 5 is not worth thinking about. More have enquired about my attire and all were very encouraging. Hundreds, upon hundreds talked to me about the house obviously and quite often digressed onto other subjects. Ramblers, I obviously do not walk in a skirt but do attend all social events they have in one and it is just like the NT, but I'm not aware of anyone who objects like the old woman above.

We were still quite active socially this summer which didn't help free up spare time. The two Music Societies we have been in for a year or so continue, one over the summer months the other over winter. We have joined a third, covers summer months and a bit of winter. As always just as I am when going to other events be it at village halls,churches even theater's I do go in my skirt.

When I am out and about I still have to say 99% either do not look or momentary glance. What they may say privately is for them, but don't we all talk as such privately. 0.9% stare longer and about 0.1% make it obvious they do not agree or find it amusing. Yes, this 1% is 99% women who embrace the full freedom of choice and expression in clothing and most are very manly in clothing styles if we are to keep men in an expected manly appearance of clothing. Society these days can be very selfish and bigoted with what is expected of men in traditional expectations, stereotyping and labeling. Yet society does not do the same with women or should I say these days dare not put expectation upon women. Thankfully the areas of life my wife and I have settled into especially since retiring and deciding not to move to France we find those that occupy the inner circles of our life including the likes of the Ramblers group and the NT offer a very refreshing and inspiring life. It is as usual, the involvement of a wider public on a part time or once only basis where their narrow minded and preconceived thoughts abound. That's the nature of humans and we call ourselves the intelligent custodians of the planet!


This is one of our private walks in the Lakes in 2016. One of only two walks this year. Weather was very warm and no wind on the tops. I do not wear skirts if I think it will be windy on the hills and walks where I know stiles and climbing is very limited ideally none.

This was taken on one of our general days out.

This was me at a National Trust Property on our way down South to see friends for a long weekend. It was the only long weekend away we had in 2016.

This year we seemed to forget to take photos of me in my skirt. I'll try harder next time.