Well, that’ll be an oops then.

Today continued the interna(tiona)l festival of wiring. Outlet after outlet succumbed to the combo of wire strippers, snipe nose pliers and a screwdriver. They were thrown, cajoled, prodded, pushed and in some cases somewhat forced into their little boxes.

After a while I reached an end point. That point where every outlet box I could reach contained a fitting of some sort. And so began testing. Bathroom fan – check. Many outlets – check.

Some outlets… not so check. Odd.

Multiway switches in the hall… First one… yes. On and off. Second. On and off. Third… Noooothing.

Poot.

So then there was the period of time where I rechecked the package (not obvious, at least to me) before finally searching on t’internet for t’instructions. And it turns out that on a four-way switch, unlike an socket, or a regular light switch, or a dimmer switch, or a timer switch, or ANY OTHER BLOODY OBJECT, the colour code does not indicate ‘hot’ and ‘neutral’. Ooooh no.

That would be too simple.

No, on a four-way switch, the colour – which is incidentally the same colour used for “hot” in other circumstances – indicates which two connectors are connected together. The IN/OUT does not operate across the switch, but down each side. Because it makes perfect sense to use the same sodding colour to mean something different on different switches. Obviously.

That resolved – I gleefully posted a video of it working.

And then I got down to working out why the outlets in the office don’t work. And, err, I think it’s because…

…and this is evvvver so slightly embarrassing…

I may. And this is currently just a theory, mind. But I may have forgotten…to….connect them to the fusebox.

A bit of gazing at photos, and a count of connections in the room suggests that the point where the cable should enter from the fusebox does not, in fact, have sufficient cables coming in to make that possible. Indeed, looking at the photos, I strongly suspect that the cable goes around the room, then up to the attic and then stops.

I will check this on Sunday morning. But that is my current working theory.

I think, for reasons that escape me, I decided to move the office circuit off the bedroom circuit, but never actually made that connection. I clearly decided that the other bedroom would no longer be on the same circuit, because the bedroom works. As does every other outlet in the house.

But not that room.

Sooooo. It’s actually a relatively easy fix (she says optimistically). I just need to join the office to the lounge circuit. Neither is likely to be heavily loaded, so… and handily, they share a space between studs. So that may be a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday activity. Along with buying…housey things, like a fridge and a cooker. And a washing machine. And so on.

Let there be light

I have spent the past two days doing an inordinate amount of wiring. This has been a process made less fun by my dislike of US outlets, and the tightness of some of our boxes. I’ve also come to realise that while it’s hideously inefficient (in terms of number of connectors), I far prefer to use a larger number of block connectors, and no twist connectors, because the twist connectors occupy much more un-controllable volume.

Once you’ve twisted together 6 wires, they’re difficult to bend, especially in the horrid flexy plastic boxes that are the mainstay of US wall wiring.

That, and the fact that either side of the outlet, when you wire it and install it, are bare, unprotected connections to the live and neutral sides. That means if your irritatingly unflexible ground cable wants to sit near the front of the box, then they sit right next to the ground cable. Not quite touching, but close. Close enough to make me feel uncomfortable, then have to take the switch out a bit and spend some entertainingly trying to shove the wires back in the box without breaking it or bending it so far that it won’t sit where it’s meant to.

The single boxes aren’t too bad. It’s the triples that are upsetting.

Anyhow, that being said I have installed many things.

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I finally got around to installing the last two breakers in the fuse box today – partly because I wanted to find out if the light around the front door works (spoiler: it does, but a bright sunny day isn’t the best for taking photos of it).

Also – testing revealed that there is light in other locations now:

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We have two installed and functional lights. We have many, many outlets. I’ve still got 8 to do tomorrow, though. I also need to work out whether our complex lighting multi-way switching is working. I can only test the hall tomorrow, but that’s the most complex one. If that’s right the others are most likely right. Or at least easily fixable.

It is quite exciting, though, to have more than one functional outlet. And having lights…on a switch… than you can just use? Oooh, that’s fun.

We made a big rock.

So, one of the interesting things about lime plaster is that as it dries it gradually turns back into what is essentially limestone. It’s a two step process, the water evaporates and you get a chemical drying at which point it’s fairly hard, but it then starts reabsorbing much of the carbon dioxide that was put out as it was transformed into lime. That reabsorbed carbon dioxide it seems is trapped again, and presumably forms part of the crystalline structure that gradually forms of the next few weeks.

So our house is now, internally at least, covered in limestone.

This has been a hell-of-a-week. Last week at work was fairly busy, and on Saturday while I was at work, and Kathryn wasn’t well, the plasterers set-to on the house. On Sunday I turned up to find they’d finished the second bedroom except for the final-final spray polish and buff.

So the process goes thus:

First coat (which we did before the holiday) in which you embed the mesh and try and get a key to which the next coat will stick. In this coat they mixed some small amount of tile adhesive – to help it stick better to our non-plaster-rated drywall. Basically, they added glue to it.

Second coat – this is applied with a steel trowel, and is fairly thin – when I was doing this I was told to aim for only a couple of mm. Unevenness in this is then smoothed using a polyfloat. Swirling motions take the high spots and carry them to the lower spots making the whole thing more even.

Third coat – once the second coat has hit a point of being dryer (I’m a little unclear on exactly the right level of dryness, I only did this in one small area), using a finishing metal float the existing plaster is smoothed and – depending on who was doing it, sometimes a very thin skim seemed to be added over the whole thing, and sometimes just patching was done.

Finally they’d go over it and spray it down, touch up any bits that weren’t good enough, and using some small rock thing, they’d smooth out any high spots.

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Now, for an optimum strength you should keep the plaster moist and have it dry slowly, so we’re misting the building for the next few days. And then the dehumidifer goes back on and we start work on laying the heating pipe guides and the floor, putting in sockets / outlets and eventually…moving in.

In the background we’ve applied for the planning permit for our garage, so hopefully that’ll get built soon and we can move some of the stored stuff out of the house. And Rebecca into the garage.

In bad news, we have gained an above ground pool.

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And of course, the water main has broken just after the meter which is, we are told, our responsibility, despite lying on city land. Also, handily near a telegraph pole, so that should be… a nightmare.

Huh, a ceiling.

When we left we finally gave in and allowed someone to do work on house when we weren’t there. We left a drywall company with a key and Kathryn’s mom with another key on the basis that they would come in and make our ceiling look ceilingy.

I largely managed to avoid angst, apart from a fairly frantic conversation about why their equipment was tripping the circuits in our house ending with me explaining that all the live circuits are AFCI/GFI protected, and there’s no live circuits that aren’t GFI because they’re all ‘wet area’ circuits.

But it wasn’t entirely clear that when we came back the ceilings would be done.

But they are. And bloody hell if they don’t look like competent ceilings.

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We couldn’t afford to get them to do the skylights, and we’re planning to veneer them in wood anyway (and at over $1k to do them to a level 4 finish, it wasn’t worth it for something we’d cover up), but all the other ceilings are looking remarkably respectable.

Even the shoddiest bit:

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Of course, now that people know we’re back it’s all got super intense. We had a nice peaceful day scheduled yesterday, but instead spent it trying to schedule other people. So when I left today our ceilings were being painted (they were primed with some ultra-thick smoothing paint in these photos). They’re hoping to finish that off tomorrow.

Then Saturday our plasterers come back and start putting the finish coats on the walls.

We need to pick up the pace a bit because – well, one, we’d like to be in the damn house, but also, two, our kitchen cabinets are ready.

We dropped by to see them…but couldn’t because they’re so busy that there’s many kitchen stacked in front of them. But they’ve kindly offered to hold them for a while.

We’re also excited to get in.

I also, today, tried to get some traction on the garage build. But it turns out there’s no longer any way to submit paper plans to the city. I’ve nudged our tuff-shed sales person, but will probably end up just paying to have them scanned, which was the planning-tech’s suggestion.

Already the holiday is wearing off.

I haven’t forgotten, though, the feeling on the island. And that’s something that needs to be investigated. If we can make a living, then… yeah.

In which we don’t get our rental EV, or our sleeper train journey

Oh, the joys of a lack of foreshadowing.

So having sat in the lounge carriage on the sleeper (apparently available to those in prole class, if the 1st class passengers aren’t using it) and had a pleasant desert, some nice drinkies, and watched as the highlands rolled past, we slipped to our tired and battered bedroom, and laid down to rest our weary selves.

Of course, sleeping on a train for some is a delight, but for us – well, it turns out neither of us are great train sleepers. Also, the night-light was on. We didn’t realise it was the nightlight and were both deeply confused by the glowing blue light. Now, had we have not been so tired, we might have been willing to switch the lights back on, and then would have noticed the switch marked nightlight. But we didn’t. More fool us.

Mind, it didn’t matter, because at 3am we were awoken and informed that the train had failed. It was an ex-train. It was sat at Edinburgh… and we traipsed, as directed, to the nearby Jury’s Inn where we were treated to coffee, tea, or fruit juice. No breakfast, mind. Nothing at all to eat.

There we sat for nearly 2 hours, before we were herded back to the station to get on a non-sleeper train to London. I can’t say that any of this made us terribly happy. At least the staff were nice and apologetic.

By the time we reached London – hours after when we were meant to arrive – for our one-and-only planned full-day in London on this trip…we were completely exhausted. Thankfully, the hotel let us check in early and we laid on a comfy bed and dozed for an hour. Then we meandered around the area – stopping at Ottolenghi for an insanely good lunch (gods, he is so good). Then we pottered to Spitalfields market, and then on to the Barbican Centre for an excellent AI exhibit.

Sadly, the book of the exhibit failed to include any of the damn women, that they had a whole section on in the exhibit. Which was somewhat annoying because had I have known that in the exhibit I’d’ve taken down a bunch of names. But we only discovered it afterwards. I realised, while there, that I seem to have somewhat imprinted on the Barbican Centre. Having been there so much as a kid the brutalist concrete feels terribly friendly and safe. And it just warms my heart being there. Odd, really.

Anyhow, the next morning was family day part one – and we headed over to see my sister, who took us to see Jerome K Jerome’s grave at Ewelme, along with the fascinating grave of Alice de la Pole. We also went for a potter around the village and saw the somewhat quirky watercress beds that line the middle of the village. It was all in all very pleasant. Then off to see friends in Bristol – where we had a lovely day, and rounded it off with a glass of port and some ridiculous deserts in a nice restaurant.

And then we pottered down to Cornwall to see my mum, where we discovered there’s an enormous number of local walks we’ve not done. We discovered it a bit late, and there were enormous wind storms while we were there, so it didn’t exactly factor into our plans that much, but we did go and potter up to a neolithic tomb, which was amazing. Next time we go we shall have to actually go on some of these walks, rather than our standard loop that we’ve more or less done for the past 9 years.

Yes, I know, we’re insane.

And now we’re back…and that’s a thing.


Squeak, squeak, clatter, clatter.

And so we find ourselves back on the Caledonian Sleeper, the battered and tired old coaches creeping their way back to London. It’s with rather a lot of sadness that we do this, we both fell somewhat in love with the Scottish small isles and would happily have stayed.

Something about a life with less drive to consume. With less of a need to be connected. All very romantic in the sunshine and no doubt bloody hard in the winter. Tempting none the less.

Having made it across on the ferry which was very long because, with only the exception of the first ferry journey, we’d somehow picked an inordinately long route that stopped in other places. Then down (well, across) on the train to Banavie, we popped out to grab food and ended up looking around the castle there.

We noodled around Banavie yesterday, mainly doing laundry but also checking out the local distillery. Sadly, whether or not it’s good whisky, the people seemed meh, and while the tour was interesting, by the end of it neither of us felt like they truly cared deeply about the drink they’re making. It more felt like ‘this is the way we have been doing it for years, so why change’.

Today we hopped on the bus and headed for Fort William where we (unsurprisingly) spent an inordinate amount of time in a book shop, and also took some time checking out the museum… And the whiskey shop (and yes, I’m more than aware of the inconsistency of thinking about a life that is based on less consumption, then promptly going and consuming. Who ever said it would be easy?).

We picked up some thought provoking reading matter and are headed down on the train to London… Where we were meant to be renting an EV. But… That fell though… So sadly we’ll be in a Prius. The best we could manage on our limited budget and without trekking hours out of our way (to the other side of London) to hire. Ask me why rental companies don’t hire EVs… I have no answer but it’s bloody irritating.

Feh.