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 and cons.
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 window frame.
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 wire.
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 stain.
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.