My flat is the top floor of an old house and when I say old it’s somewhere between 100 and 150 years old.
This has a number of pros
There’s the gorgeous old
exterior which is countered by the aspects of the interior design which
obviously weren’t designed to accommodate the size of modern furniture.
There’s the beautiful high
ceilings which give a light airy feeling of space but which mean that heating
the place in winter is a bugger.
There’s the lovely vintage
sash windows which are really difficult to clean properly thanks to the way the
glass sits and the fact that the insect screens are permanently fixed to the
But one of the less
whimsical or design-based things about having a house that old is that over the
years various owners have altered or added to the house.
Some of those additions or
‘improvements’ are rather old.
Some of them were
undertaken when there wasn’t a lot in the way of regulations in place.
Some of them probably took
place when regulations were in place but the owners thought ‘eh, we can
do it ourselves, who needs to know?’.
One of the main offenders
in this case was probably my previous landlord who sold to my current landlord.
He had a very ‘I’ll do it
myself’ attitude which was both innovative and somewhat concerning.
You’d have fences made of
materials he had to hand.
He crafted a greenhouse of
out random lengths of metal pile, wood, clear plastic sheeting and twists of
He had a hoarder’s paradise
of a shed where he’d always have something he could use to ‘fix’ or replace
something that was broken or playing up.
The reason I’m bringing all
this up is because when I got home yesterday most of my lights and half of my
power points weren’t working, and when I went around testing them all to see
what was and wasn’t functioning I found this.
That, my friends is a smoke
From when the light – which
was not on – shorted out during a rainstorm we had that day and released what I
assume was a terrifying spark and deposited soot on the paint.
My current landlord is
thankfully a registered electrician so I went downstairs and dragged him up to
work out what the hell had happened and whether I was in any danger of waking
up on fire in the near future.
He took apart the light
fixture and checked the wiring and it looks like the short was caused by a
build up of dust and bad wiring rather than direct contact with water getting
into the roof buuuuuuuuut there’s still some concerns about why it happened on
the day with the heavy persistent rain.
He also checked the old
fashioned fuses to see if more than one had blown.
Only one had but when
looked at it his eyebrows just about catapulted off his forehead because the
wire that had been used was NOT fuse wire.
They had used a bit of wire
about the right size made of a conductive or semi-conductive material
which they had presumably just had to hand because why bother buying fuse wire
when you can just use this wire!? Waste not, want not!
THIS is a prime example of the
gut-clenching terror that you can experience when you find some of the ‘eh, we
can do it ourselves work’.
There are exterior lights
which have been taken down since new landlord took over because the first time
he saw them he went very still and just said ‘those aren’t earthed’.
There were extra power
points which had been installed via the highly professional technique of
pulling an existing power point out from the wall, splicing in some extra wire,
fixing that wire to the skirting board with little u-shaped fixtures which ran
all the way to the new power point and then painting over that new wire to make
it less obvious that this is what they’ve done.
I should probably be a bit
more concerned about this but honestly in the almost 9 years I’ve been living
there I haven’t had too many problems and there is a serene calm that comes
from renting a place that will probably need to be extensively rewired and
restored rather than owning a place that will probably need to be
extensively rewired and restored.
I spent Friday evening
watching TV by lamplight and cooking on my gas cooktop and despite the
inconvenience, and yeah potential danger, I still love this place.
It’s pretty, crazy, and I
get to enjoy that while handballing any problems to someone else who is coming
back today to crawl around in the ceiling* and see if we’re likely to survive
the environmental hardships of winter.
So yeah, my house could
have caught fire but it didn’t so my brain has immediately gone ‘cool story,
bro’ and I’ve sauntered onto the internet to tell people about it.