Monday, 5 March 2018

Skirted Man - Another Period of Silence but Still Active

Once again time flies by and another 7 month gap.

Again very busy and doing a blog does not rank to high in such situations.

I refrained from any DIY - amateur builder really - until December 2017. Noting the Consultant said avoiding any such physical activity for a year would help internal recovery. I have to say he is right as in my full and active life of including DIY I am not aware of any internal twinges. Talking about Bowel Cancer, I had my anniversary CT Scan and Colonoscopy. Both were clear. On the Colonoscopy the Doctor said my Bowel was in excellent condition for my age. I asked "my age" laughing and added it wasn't last year! As with the Professor who did my Colonoscopy in 2016 both had a very good sense of humour and light hearted banter during the process whilst watching on the large screen. I did ask him where the join was when he reached my stomach outlet and his reply was, I didn't see it either, lets pay better attention on our way down. We didn't even see it then.

Since July 2017 (my last blog) and December 2017 I continued much as stated in there. Gardens occupied me 2 days one week, one day the next. My National Trust volunteering continued, yes as a man in a skirt, and our walking took primary place. Took part with two Ramblers clubs, as at March 2018 we now mix and match 4 Ramblers clubs, went off and did our own personal walks as we tend to prefer slightly longer than the average club walk of 10 miles and prefer much more mountainous/hilly scenery. In September we had 5 days in Snowdonia and in October 4 days on the western side of the Lake District. Our walking in 2017 except Wales has been Northern England based. This photo is Tryfan, north side of Glyder Fach, Snowdonia

I have had two more radio sessions since my last blog, one specifically about men in skirts the other when a local station gave our National Trust Hall a few minutes air time when they had a volunteer recruitment day. I was one of 4 volunteers asked to talk and mine at NT request covered diversity. Both these radio interviews can be found on my web site under the section TheSkirtedMan - Radio & Promotions.

Last summer I was accepted to take part in an event to take place in October and called Sitters and Their Stories based at Beningbrough Hall. Again a specific page has been created on my web site - Sitters and Their Stories.

All this plus our social activities of seeing friends including at times with friends, a monthly concert, occasional dining out etc. This has included recently seeing Levison Wood, the adventurer who has appeared on Channel 4 Documentaries Walking the Nile, Walking the Himalyas, Walking Central America etc. Ripon International Festival was again attended, partaking in 5 what we thought were very interesting performers, one of which was Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers. As always all my activities unless not practical to do so are in skirts and other clothing that society labels as womens wear only, yet any wear when it comes to women. Other concerts and live speaker presentations are on the agenda for later this year.

Gardens were still active until late November. In fact two lawns needed to be cut in my last scheduled week of gardening, something I have not done before, yet the following week wintry weather showed its head. Mildly initially but since January more than our usual dosage.
The recent snowy weather from the East in the first week of March 2018 caught us quite badly but I don't think as bad as some other parts of the UK. I posted a few pictures and tweets on my Twitter account. As with other regions, this snowy period has eased off and started to melt but still plenty of the white stuff lying around off the roads. There has been a fair bit of digging out as well.
My Twitter has been semi active, but since the start of January 2018 I have had periods away simply due to time and quite frankly tiredness in the evening. I limit my number of whom I follow simply due to the time line being inundated in tweets and I find it quite difficult even now to scan the time line. I tend to glance and move on only looking closely at ones that interest me. Some times I have 3 or 4 days to go over and I still have 3 or 4 searchers eg man in a skirt. Recently absent from Twitter for 14 days so didn't even try to cover that period.

DIY. As I said that started in December 2017 after a full 12 months off.
It didn't take long to settle back in and the main problem initially was trying to forget what should have been done and what I should be doing now. I simply had to mentally block out the missing previous winter DIY that was not done. DIY is like hill walking for me. It is a form of drug. It drives me, inspires me and pushes me to see and do more. There is a gene that has sub genes off it that apparently defines our characteristics and I am currently trying to research that more and have a rough draft on my web site awaiting finalising. I get a buzz out of serious builders DIY and hill walking even if others don't.

Currently I am finalising the multi foil insulation I have mentioned in an earlier blog within the house. The two locations to finish were our bedroom and front porch. The bedroom has been done and the porch started. The bedroom took far longer than planned mainly due to other activities in our lives like walking, social etc. National Trust meetings since January for volunteers and also my role as Day Coordinator. Snow has not helped either.
The bedroom was radically restructured as well. The front wall highly insulated like other rooms taking it back to stone, repointing, creating two 25mm cavities topped with 25mm insulated plaster board. the 1 cm thick multi foil insulation is the equivalent of 200mm rock wool. This extra wall thickness needed to be compensated for. All the electrical sockets when our house was restored by the previous owners were in the wrong place and covered by any piece of bedroom furniture. For years we have lived with extension leads. All this was remedied with the inclusion of computer network sockets as well. In the main house WiFi is acceptable but moving into the the two attached barn conversions the thick stone walls knock the WiFi out. I have tried this WiFi connectors that use the mains house cable but became frustrated with those.
Running net work sockets allows me to plug in dedicated room WiFi adaptors and are more efficient as they use specific and dedicated network cabling. This is ideal when restoring and restructuring so I have taken the opportunity. Also direct hard wire network connections do provide a faster speed than WiFi so items like TV and recording boxes are hard wired for network, leaving tablets to WiFi. All this computer networking, joining multi core cabling to RJ45 sockets to a central communications cabinet with multi gang port switch to a router is self taught.

A new ceiling has been put up as the professionals the previous owner had in did not use scrim cloth. Therefore with standard expansion and contraction, cracks where plaster boards butted up to each other have formed and the old method of nailing plaster board, one or two nail heads were pushing back through. All now remedied so the opportunity to take down the one drop ceiling light has been replaced with recessed low energy LED lights.
The old airing cupboard has been taken out. Earlier blogs will have mentioned our installation of Air Source heating taking opportunity of the UK Government RHI scheme. We make the initial outlay but over the following 7 years were get it back, plus a little more via quarterly instalments. That and the fact it has reduced our heating costs from electric, coal and logs by 75% is another positive factor. This and the level of insulation, even with cold easterlys of -7 and -13 wind chill the room stat stayed at 18 and radiators at 2 or 3 on the individual thermostats. The only thing I did was put on a cardigan or jumper where usually in winter I have to take those off as well.

Fitted wardrobes were built by myself and here are a few photos of this. All the bedroom renovations as usual done by myself and my wife, including the oak floor. Only a plasterer was brought in.

Now I am insulating the porch. When I put the porch up in 2005, this enthusiasm of insulation for me was not there and really no big push for porch but I am now doing it. A porch is not really an essential area but I could not insulate the front wall of the kitchen having done its back wall internally. This was starting to really compromise on the fitting a modern kitchen. As the porch crosses the entire front wall of the kitchen with the kitchen window in direct align with the glass front door, this will technically insulate that wall also the front door from the porch into the living room. The fact that my labour timer is free and I get a buzz out of such a challenge to me makes it worth doing. This also allows me to restructure the porch better. After 12 years we find we use about 50% as a sun room and the other area as a dumping ground. It is big, at around 18 feet by 6 feet. Putting up an internal wall with a door means the clutter is hidden and passage from front door to internal front door is now a dedicated sun room. This has meant a structural alteration with new wall and raising part of the floor. Old houses going back a few hundred years were not built on foundations. Using huge heavy stones direct onto boulder clay which in itself is like a concrete foundation and the lie of the land was used. I hit this problem when I converted the two barns and as you move eastwards the boulder clay for us rises. Keeping a floor level can be difficult without improvising when you need to lower its original level. In the barn conversion the back wall would have been a few inches higher than the floor level as it came through. Under pinning is one solution but my Building Control officer suggested I place modern concrete foundation for the new block wall that I had to build in front of the old back wall, to finish above the new floor level on the boulder clay and hide it and the damp proof membrane via the skirting board by not using screws. The new concrete floor and stone flags would then act as a lock on this foundation moving. The new concrete foundation locked the old stone wall. In the barn conversion this new wall was a requirement as the old stone wall was built into the hill side so damp membranes, chemical cement render were required with a cavity and insulation. I therefore used the same technique in the porch and where the last 1 meter of two walls in the porch rose above the finished ground level I stepped up the new concrete floor topped with stone flags. That was fine as one room in a corner but a new wall started to make this raised area awkward. The solution was lift the flags, build the new wall then raise the whole floor behind the wall to match the previous raised level and create the step up in the door way itself.

A few photos of this are here.

I just need to fill in the joints, put back on the stone skirting boards allowing for insulated wall thickness and then insulate the wall and wall tile the plaster board. That is my task between now and end of April 2018. At the moment it is too cold in that porch and I may be an enthusiastic DIY builder but I am a fair weather builder!

Until next time.