Coronavirus Diary 43 – Self Isolating without electricity

My Coronavirus Self-Isolation took a step further towards feeling further like a solitary confinement in prison last week as I managed to get an electrician who was able to come into my new but ancient house.

Initially I only wanted some very minor work doing but as is the way with things, it all escalated very quickly and my electrician very understandably thought it might be a good idea to test every single plug socket and switch in the house.  I thought it a good idea too given that some sockets weren’t working and other things would inexplicably power down.

The rather old 20th century fuse and switch box was also deemed to be unsafe, something I had a feeling would be the case all ready given that I heard my next door neighbours melting through the wall in the days after I moved in.   There’s a reason why old buildings end up either blowing up in a fireball or collapsing in a pile of rubble.

The problem of course of with checking for problems is that you might actually find them and though everything we thought might be an issue wasn’t, many things we thought would be ok weren’t.

There is never a good time to hear your electrician shout out “I’ve never seen that before” and to be fair not many people do have melted tar on their hot lightbulbs inches away from gas or water piping but that’s part of the fun of having an old house…. so I gather.

Tar Lamp

One thing that we thought was an issue for 2 days was that there was some sort of fluctuating failure in the wiring and typically it was in the one plug in the whole house that there wasn’t east access to.  That’s because it is behind this huge and immovable wardrobe that we built in February.  The last words the friend who helped me build it when he left was that it was never going to move again as long as I live here.

As it happens I had a stroke of luck as there had been an extension cable plugged into the wardrobe so I still had power in the corner of the room but it had never worked since the wardrobe had been put there.  I thought I’d forgotten to switch it on and was resigned for it to be plugged in but not switched on for the rest of my life.

The wardrobe

Stephen the unstoppable force meets the immovable wardrobe.

The night before the wardrobe had to be moved, I spent 5 minutes trying to move it without success and for some reason when I had given up, pushed it hard back against the wall.  To my surprise there was a thud as it moved back slightly.  I thought I’d broken the back of the wardrobe but it was ok.  Then when I went to bed I noticed the red light of the extension sockets was powered on and I wondered if I had accidentally solved the whole problem.

Thinking my amateur and out of character optimism would be swiftly dismissed by the electrician we were both surprised and relieved that I was right.  It seemed that when we had originally pushed the wardrobe into place that we had ever so slightly dislodged the plug by just a mm or two (1.8th of an inch) and that was shorting the live and neutral pins resulting in possible surges and fires without even knowing about it.

I felt like Han Solo successfully getting the Millenium Falcon to Hyperspace by smacking the computer console hard.

Even though I had spent an hour emptying the wardrobe and an hour putting everything back in, I can’t think that myself and my wallet had a lucky escape from what the electrician had said would likely have been a long and messy job which I think is electrician for expensive.

It’s still not great to have to spent quite a bit of money when you’re not earning any but given the various faults that were found and the age of everything, it seemed prudent and at least I know everything is ok.

As the electrician said after just heaving duty equipment to cut space for the wiring through the wall, this house is built to last.

Despite the upheaval I come out of it with double the lighting in two rooms downstairs, extra sockets in one room and both a security and a beauty lamp outside the back door.  I waited until 10pm last night for it to start getting dark just to test out the lights and they looked great in the living room, dining room and back garden.

The electrician has completed 95% of his work and all that remains is some painting and to plaster up the trenches that he ground out of the old stone walls to add the extra power sockets.  And that will be my job tomorrow.

It’s another big step in the never ending and frankly impossible task under the lockdown of making a new house a home.

Big jobs done: 104 boxes unpacked and disposed of, Fireplace installed and up and running, new bathroom fitted, back garden mostly sorted, new electrical systems sorted.

Big jobs I know about that need doing: making the stairs safe, shelving and the landing, sorting out the boiler and kitchen wall, getting the taps to work downstairs, finishing the garden and painting the outside of the house.    If anyone sees a leather sofa and reclining arm chair coming from Italy, that was due in March then do let me know!


About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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3 Responses to Coronavirus Diary 43 – Self Isolating without electricity

  1. Whew!!!! Busy busy. What a relief you didn’t have to get help and try to move that huge closet and or end up taking it apart. So relived no fires for you. Older homes are so beautiful and I do love them, but with them comes out dated electric and plumbing. Bu to me, well worth the hassel and expense. Count every penny just to replace our windows. Our plce is only 53 years old but still electrics are a mess. Half the sockets dont work and the ones that do, if you use the they blow the circuit off. Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, who’d have thought that a house from 1826 pretty much wiring and plumbing from 1826 too! In the U.K. a 53 year old house would be considered quite new. Certainly the house I moved from was built in 1971 and that was considered new. The next thing is to get more of the water pipes to work 🙂


  2. Marilyn says:

    Glad you got it all sorted out before you had a fire in your house! Scary!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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