Sometimes it pays just not to have a plan for the day…

So, I thought John was the best person for this issue and he agreed to have a go at posting on my blog today…  Here’s what he’s been doing:

I try not to have any fixed plans for my day, as whenever I do, something always happens to scupper them.  That’s not to say that I have no idea what I am going to do when I wake up in the morning, just a vague notion of what I might get done if the universe doesn’t get in the way.  I feel that if my preparations become too concrete, the world picks up on this and throws a spanner in there – so I try to keep things sort of just in the corner of my mind’s eye, if you get my drift.

Anyway, there are two examples of this from the last three days.  Firstly, after making detailed plans to spend Saturday helping Jason weld up his car exhaust and replacing the throttle cable on Berni’s car, we get a last-minute booking for the B&B and we have no rooms even slightly ready…  and I mean still-full-of-decorating-crap not ready.  Cue the last-minute booking panic procedure!  As it turned out we still also managed to fix the cars, but it wasn’t at quite the leisurely pace I had envisaged.

Today I had big plans to make a massive dent in the remains of the afore-mentioned decorating, until that was, I heard what sounded like a truck crashing into a massive metal tank from outside the back door.  I couldn’t see anything that might have caused this, so put it down to the military messing around on the range again and carried on with my morning chores (albeit with a small section of my brain still trying to work out what that sound could have been).  A little later there was a strange whooshing noise from outside which once again I could not identify.

Stepping through the back door I was assailed with the stench of gas and immediately looked towards our propane gas tank.  The cover seemed to be missing and there was a fountain of liquid propane squirting out of the pressure relief valve.  Eeeek!  Straight onto the emergency hotline and a technician was despatched – in the interim I was advised not to strike any matches, flick any switches or create a spark by any other means.

Once my saviour arrived it became evident that the last gas delivery man had over-filled the tank and the 10 degree increase in temperature since that delivery, along with the fact that the sun was shining, had caused the liquid to boil and the gas pressure to increase until the valve let rip to release the otherwise very dangerous pressure.  This was something that just didn’t happen in winter he had great joy in telling me.

After he vented a large amount of liquid into the air the pressure dropped sufficiently for just gas to be escaping, so that he was able to set light to it and flare off the excess.  It turns out that this excess is at least 150 litres and it will take several hours to reduce the pressure to safe levels.  As I am writing this, the sun is setting and the massive flame is starting to look quite pretty – shame about the horrible roaring sound that goes with it.

So, after two hours or so the gas pressure has been normalised and the tank and all connected systems have been checked for safety.  Life may now go on as before, except without any firm plans!

Here are some short video clips that give a better idea of what was experienced today:

Venting the excess liquid

Burning off the gas

Better as it got dark!

D I (Here’s) Why!

John and I are very make do and mend.  The idea of throwing something away because it’s old or for newer technology does not sit well with us.  And if something breaks our first thought is to fix it not replace it.  It’s saves loads of money (of which we have little) and its far more eco-friendly to fix something then scrap it and replace it with a new one.  That’s why our (touch wood) washing machine is over 20 years old and working just fine (Ok we’ve replaced parts a couple of times); and why we still have a cathode ray tube TV (that my dad was chucking out 15 years ago because the colour definition had gone – but we fixed for £30); and why John just had to have a go at this…

We bought a Toyota Prius from our wonderful local Toyota dealership in Builth 10/11 years ago.  Second hand 2005 model.  Despite its dents and scrapes its been fine. The garage service and MOT it annually and fix any niggles and problems.  they’re a fantastic team and should we ever need a new second-hand car we will get another Toyota because of their customer service.

Our trusty Toyota Prius
Our trusty Toyota Prius

A few weeks after the last service which includes a battery health check we went away for a few days in our Imps.  On return john went somewhere in the Toyota and by the time he returned every warning light was on ; glowing red cars with exclamation marks VSC and break warnings… it did not look good.

Popped to the garage and were told it would be one of two things a faulty start-up which made the computers think the hybrid battery was failing; or the hybrid battery was failing.  They reset the warnings and said if they don’t come back on then all is well.  sadly they all came back on.

Now I know nothing about electrics/electronics/engineering or cars but the hybrid battery, I’m told is made up of a series of cells that together make up 220V and although the car is petrol and electric, once the hybrid battery fails the car dies, it will not continue to work on just petrol.

A new hybrid batter fitted by a dealer is £1200 (that’s one and a half hours of labour (£125) and the battery.  The car is maybe worth scrap value without a working battery.

We don’t have £1200 or access to it in any way.

New Hybrid Battery Cells
New Hybrid Battery Cells

John researched refurbished batteries and they were around £300-400 but were in places like Cambridge and Coventry.  Plus our wonderful garage agreed they would fit it for us at the same rate but would not be able to offer a guarantee.  all fair enough, but one big problem,,,, We didn’t have a car to go and get one.

After much research and YouTube video watching our very own handyman, my John, decided he would give it a go himself.  He purchased two new cells at £56 delivered and allowed himself 2 days to dismantle the car and attempt the repair. (Two cells with the thought being that the car might have managed with one failing but two it would be unlikely coupled with the garage previously assuring us that in most cases the cars are scrapped well before the hybrid batteries fail – they’d only ever had two fail in all the years…now three)

So, how did John get on? Well here’s his Vlog about it.  Basically £56 and  four hours and we have a working car again!  Plus he only needed to replace one of the cells, so we still have a spare.

I think I’ll suggest to our Dealership that they offer this service.  For £350 we’d have probably have let them do it and I bet they could do it in an hour.

But for us, here’s a better example of why we DIY… We just saved ourselves £1100!!!

D I Why?!


We moved here eleven and half years ago.  Feb 4th 2005 to be exact. The house was run down and dated but we could see past all that.

We needed to start receiving B&B guests that May so, as we walked through the door on that first morning we started ripping out carpets as we wandered from room to room. Thirty years of coal and wood grime and a good inch of dog hair; we wanted them out before the removal van arrived.

This was followed by the fun bit, four weeks of knocking the crap out of the place; chipping back plaster; taking walls back to brick until they stopped crumbling away; scraping off wallpaper; whacking stuff with hammers.  You would not believe some of the findings.  Wallpaper held down with masking tape to keep the crumbling walls in; slivers of soap and old newspaper to fill holes and bridge gaps!! Four weeks later our plasterers who had helped us finish our old house (so we could move on), arrived to cover the walls back up again.  We followed them around painting and decorating.

This is a "Trouser Press Free Zone"

By May Bank Holiday 2005 we had the house ready from the front door, through the hall and into the guest dining room; up the stairs and into the two guest en suite rooms.  All our own space was in the same sorry state we found it.

We did get our bathroom finished.   John was amazing.  I wanted twinkly lights so to create this effect  (baring in mind the added complication of a curved ceiling).  John build a false ceiling, drilled 250 holes and threaded them with 1/2km of fibre optic cable before I helped him manhandle it into position.


bathroom mosaic and fibre optic ceilingA

This involved me standing on the edge of the bath, balancing that end of the ceiling on my head whilst he fixed the other end in position.  I also wanted black tiles floor and ceiling to create a feeling of ‘floating in space when standing in there at night.  I know , I’m demanding, he’s patient and obliging.  Especially considering that the glue dissolved the mosaic tile backing meaning that each 2cm square tile had to be attached individually. (I imagine lots of swearing under John’s breath and fake smiles through the 50 hours it took to create my dream).

At some point during the last eleven and a half years we have managed to (almost) finish our living/dining room, the floor is still as we found it having lifted the carpets on day one.  We just can’t find time or energy to sand the floor boards. Plus there’s a troublesome little DIY conundrum to get our heads around before we do …. the room was previously two rooms but had been knocked through at some point in its past.  The floor on the living room side and that in the dining room are slightly different levels and the gap in rough, uneven concrete.  For eleven years we’ve ‘dealt with it’ like this….  a sheet of wood and gaffer tape…its become a bit of a feature…

The kitchen we acquired with the house was a 70’s extension to the 1907 original build with the added quirk of a second ‘fix’ whereby a larder had been knocked out and a back porch had been added.  The floor with quarry tiles suffered the same idiosyncrasy as the lounge/diner; a line of concrete where the wall had been between kitchen and previous larder space and slightly different levels.

There were two different types of 70s cupboards and two different types of 70’s laminate worktop.  I coped for a couple of years and then John promised to build me a kitchen.  It’s about 60% there!!

John built the cupboards; they’re so substantial you could save yourself by hiding in the during a bombing raid.  They never quite got finished beyond the primer.  I added the mural in Spring 2016.


John has however resolved the floor issue here; leveling and quarry tiling throughout


As for the worktops. The kitchen is bespoke, lots of curves and odd-shaped worktops required.  I don’t like to make it too easy.  so we cut out some temporary ones for the shape some years back, and there they remain!  We wanted stone.  Five years or so ago we got round to sourcing some .  Too expensive.  We could never raise the funds.  We had some grandiose idea of using recycled glass composite and moulding our own with the help of a local entrepreneur; John even researched how to go about it using YouTube videos; but it all got a bit complicated.  We considered polished concrete.  We even acquired a DIY kit to do it ourselves.  I have no idea what happened to it.

kitchen plan

Last month I called in a carpenter. He’s coming in September.

Then there’s the outside. It needs painting.  its needed painting since we arrived.  At some point we started glossing the window frames. and at some point we slapped a coat of cream/beige on the front lower half.  I’ve always wanted t sunshine yellow.  Starting yesterday we’re getting sunshine yellow.

I have no idea how I’m going to tackle the front upper half over the veranda. Perhaps John can dangle me out of the first floor windows and hold onto my legs…..

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