My August

The following was written as a dev blog post for Battrick:

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I’ve not been able to do any development work for over a month now, due to real life happenings. As such, in the absence of any news to give you about BT, and at the personal request of Micky_Jay, I thought I’d share what’s been happening.

As this has nothing to do with Battrick whatsoever, feel free to ignore and move on!


Week 1:

Start of August, and today we’re moving back from Malaysia to the UK. I’ve been out here since November, and the missus has been working out here for a few months more. Overall, it’s been really enjoyable, and I’ve had plenty of time to do the stuff that I enjoy doing, and made some new friends in the process. All very sickening to read I’m sure.

The last week or so has been spent packing up all the shipping, and making sure that we’ve got everything we need. Minor panic last night, when we tried to stuff everything we had left from the stuff that didn’t get shipped, into the suitcases. Two suitcases = GBP 360 excess backage costs. Luckily work will pay for those.

We got told two weeks ago that there had been a fire at our house in the UK, as the tenants had left a laptop plugged in and went to work. Whether the battery exploded, or they left it on a soft surface which then got warm from the battery, we don’t know. I’ve seen the pics (the missus doesn’t want to see them yet), and it is a right mess. I’ve put them on my site, with an ingenious password. Fire has meant all of the upstairs is black from the waist up, and the soot and smoke has also drifted downstairs. Add in the broken window, and water damage from the Fire Service guys, and it’s been classed as un-inhabitable. We’re staying at the in-laws for the weekend, and then the insurance folk have organised a hotel for us.

I’m looking for a job.

Week 2:

We’re now in our second hotel already. The one they put us up in was in the middle of town (which we didn’t need), and was just too small and shabby to consider living there for any amount of time. This one however is a very nice hotel, one you could use for weddings, out on the edge of town. All very swanky, and we won’t mind living here for as long as it takes to get everything sorted with the house. There’s a two hour complimentary internet usage, so I can catch up on some of the sledging boards.

The house has started to be worked on. Firstly the cleaning company have gone in to clean most of the house of smoke damage, and to write-off everything that can’t be cleaned. This ends up as everything upstairs, except for one wooden bed. All the other beds, mattresses, wardrobes, curtains, drawers and carpets from the bedrooms, and hall/stairs/landing are now sitting in a skip outside the house. They’ve painted most of the house with a blue paint that blocks the smell of he smoke from seeping back out. They do not keep a detailed list of what they’ve written off, only basic details.

We’ve been allocated a loss adjuster, and he’s accepted a quote from some decorators which the letting agent got for us. They’ve started re-plastering the room, and getting all the decoration done, and they reckon they’ll be done within 2 weeks, easily. They are getting paid by the insurance company, which doesn’t happen until we’re happy with the work they’ve done. The main decorator is going on holiday for a couple of weeks, so we’re left with a different guy, and two seemingly work-experience / apprentice lads. This doesn’t look promising.

I’m still looking for a job. I write my CV and covering letter, and get the missus to take it into work.

I buy a new mobile phone. I hear rumblings that raptornex is stepping down. We sign up for cable tv, broadband and telephone, but get told that we owe them money from the last time we we’re with them, which is ridiculous.

Week 3:

We’ve had to move to a different hotel, as they one we we’re in was considered to be too expensive. We’re now stuck at a Premier Inn, although it’s not far from the house. No free internet here, so we’ve got a Mobile Broadband gizmo to plug in to the laptop. We’re in a slow area (2G rather than HSDPA 3.5G) but at least it’s something. The hotel is OK, but the restaurant is actually the local Beefeater place tacked on the side. We’re getting to the point now where we’re actually fed up of eating out or getting takeaway every single night.

The decorators are taking their sweet time, and the quality they are producing is frankly shocking. Considering they are supposed to be professionals, they just don’t know how to cut in. They also seem to like leaving bits of roller and paint-brush in the wet paint, rather than removing it at the time like most people would. When we complain that there’s lumpy bits everywhere, they pick out the bits from the wall, then load up their brush way too much, and dollop a big bit of paint on the area. This then runs. So now we have untextured areas on our otherwise rollered textured wall, with bit drip marks. And I haven’t even mentioned the gloss work yet.

Our Loss Adjuster has already sent a guy around to measure up the carpets. The problem we’ve got, is that as the tenants were only 4 days from moving out anyway, we’re also in the middle of discussing the deposit with them and the letting agent. One of the issues is a badly damaged living room carpet, which we obviously want replaced, but doesn’t come under the fire insurance stuff. The guy measures up all the rooms.

Later, a guy from another company comes around, and has been told by the insurance company that they are to supply and fit carpets, but for a different combination of rooms. These guys are both in addition to the fact that we’ve already organised for the guy who originally did the carpets to supply and fit new carpet for a 3rd combination of rooms. None of them can actually be fitted until the decorators have finished anyway.

Our shipping arrives from Malaysia, and everything looks intact. Our new bed arrives, and is situated in the garage. The headboard that was supposed to be delivered with it, is delayed. We get a few tools out of storage (which we’re still paying for, until we can get back in the house) and I attack the garden. I’m not one for growing pretty flowers and stuff, but I can do the weed-killing and lawn mowing. It’s hard work, but a couple of days of work, and even the passer-bys on the street comment on how much better it’s looking.

On the Saturday, we go to London with some people from the missus’ work, and do a tour of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, to see where Jack the Ripper used to do his stuff. We later visit the Museum in Docklands for a special JTR (MOD-JTR?) display that includes post-mortem pics of the victims. We’re gruesome like that.

I’m still looking for a job. I find some interesting jobs online, and send of my adapted CVs and covering letters. I even send one to a company in South Africa.

The broadband people now say we never owed them money, and send us an installation kit. Kit arrives, and we install it, but the telephone doesn’t work. We have to wait over a week to get an engineer out to fix it.

Week 4:

We’re now into our 4th hotel. The last Premier Inn couldn’t take us for another 7 days, and it seems my town has become the centre of attention for something, as all the other hotels are booked up as well. The people who have been booking the hotels, (who are not the loss adjuster, insurance people, letting agent, carpet people, decorators, or ourselves) have to put us in a different town, 35 minutes away from the house. It is however, with walking distance of the missus’ workplace. The issue now becomes car parking, as the new Premier Inn doesn’t have enough spaces for all it’s users. The option is to park over the road in a town multi-story car park, then have to claim the costs back from the insurance.

The decorators are still here, nearly twice the time frame they said they would originally need. They’d disappeared off to “emergency water leaks” and other stuff, despite us being their “highest priority”. We sent an email to the loss adjuster telling them to kick the decorators from the job, dock 20% from their invoice and pay us the money instead, so we’d get it done. Surprisingly, this whips the lead decorator back from his holiday dreams and gets him around to the house to do the work himself. I give him a to-do list of 65 items of stuff we’re not happy with, or simply hasn’t been done. He does a couple of days on it, and most of it is now done. What isn’t, will be done by ourselves at the weekend.

At 17:10 on Thursday, we get a phone call from the letting agent’s assistant to say that the decorators have reported a water leak coming from our loft, coming in via the bathroom light cord area. The decorators have turned the electricity and water off and drained the tanks to stop any more damage happening to our newly decorated house. We rush over to the house, and call an emergency plumber out to come and investigate. After much searching, coughing (1950s (asbestos-filled?) loft insulation) and torch-wielding (even with the electricity back on, the loft light refuses to work) it seems our galvanised steel tank (again, probably original 1950s) has rusted through and leaked. In addition, we’ve got scalding hot water in a different cold tank due to a problem with the cylinder in the airing cupboard.

Because of this we decide to scrap the tanks and cylinder (and the expensive repairs they would have needed), and opt to get a combi boiler installed. Thursday is spent with me on the phone to plumbers to get quotes. What this now does though, is to put everything back – we can’t get the stuff out of storage until the carpets are down, and we can’t get the carpets down until the installation of the boiler has gone ahead which requires the floorboards up, to hide all the old iron (original, rather than copper) pipework.

On the way home, the headlights stick on my car seizes up, and we have to drive part way home through the countryside with just the hazard warning lights for illumination.

I’m still looking for a job.

By Gary Jones

Husband, dad of twins, software engineering lead, and a middle-of-the-pack runner.