Washing machine

We keep our washing machine and dryer in a small room at the end of our entrance corridor. We call this our utility room. At one time, the corridor would have been a gap between the garage and the house but someone, a long time ago, brought it into the house by covering the gap and making the garage become ‘attached’. Where there used to be steps down to the back of the house (when the corridor was a gap!) there is now a utility room! Before that, when we moved in, it was a WC.

Why am I telling you this? Well, despite its convenience (we just have to pop out of what was the original main door and into the corridor and there we are) it’s still outside the main house. It has no central heating and by extension of the corridor, has a flat roof. For most of the year, it’s cold enough to store vegetables, beer and soft drinks in there. Brilliant. But occasionally this is not a good thing!

Yesterday the pipes froze.

It’s not the first time this has happened, although in January last, when it happened for the first time, we thought we’d fixed it by lagging the pipes in the garage (which feed this room) and doing whatever we needed to keep the flow flowing. However, I’d forgotten that part of the solution was to close the utility room window. With temperatures reaching lows not experienced in almost 50 years [Huddersfield Examiner] and the corridor radiator doing its best to melt the snow on the flat roof directly above it, the worst was bound to happen.

So I had to light the calor gas fire in the garage to warm those pipe through (the lagging didn’t help this process) and then I had to try and find a way of defrosting the 40 centimetres of pipe in the utility room that feed the washing machine. This was tricky because I don’t have any manly plumbing tools like a blow-torch (I used to have, but only used it for browning crème brulee). What I did find however was a 1200 watt patio/garage heater. We’d never used this before because when Sharon bought it, she thought it was a light. When I’d seen the ‘1200 watt’ on the box my wallet clenched! So it has never been used. Until yesterday.

You’re supposed to mount these things and keep them away from all living or inflammable tissue. I tried it in the garage first, balanced on an old vice (the only metal/steel thing I could find in my garage that might fit the bill!) and it certainly threw out more heat than the calor gas fire but was party to melting a plastic foot stand which Sharon uses in there (she’s only tiny). Whoops. So now, when I brought it into the house (the utility room) I was extra careful. This time I caused no damage but made all the room smell like I’d been stripping paint from the doors.

Apparently it’s the coldest start to winter in almost 50 years. [Huddersfield Examiner] I remember 1963 and for a child it was great fun with lots of snow and ice to slide on. Some drivers at that time (I suspect it was the milk float but can’t remember) had snow chains on their wheel. Whatever happened to snow chains?

For winter to come this early, before my birthday in December, is very unusual, so I suppose we’d better knuckle down and keep as warm as we can. But what about those who can’t? People still have to work – will our infrastructure we robust enough to support those who need to work? What about the elderly? My parents will still try to go out every day, partly because they always have and partly because they don’t have to turn their heating on if they are out. And: what about the footpaths – who clears those? When we were sliding down the footpaths in 1963 the house owners (the tenants really, no one owned council houses back then) would come out and spread ashes on the public path. This made our young lives pretty miserable but made sure that the footpaths were safe for everyone (workers, the elderly, young mums etc.) else to walk on.

But we have no ashes any more.

And councils are in the middle of laying off a good percentage of their staff.

Ideas?

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Travel chaos

What can I say? Today has (so far) been a complete waste of time. A combination of weather and a comedy of travel errors has diverted my day. Big time.

I set off at 7.20am to catch the 7.57am train to Leeds. It was raining hard and had rained hard all night – but we live in the Pennines, so what? My train was delayed by nine minutes – I had a twelve minutes change over in Leeds: so that’s when my worries started. Thanks to Ron Mitchel and Sharon I was kept fully informed of developments and of alternative routes. My destination had been Nottingham, to attend the CAPITAL (Curriculum and Pedagogy in Technology Assisted Learning) meeting set up by Nick Jeans of SERO.

As it happened, my twelve minute change over didn’t become a problem because a) we arrived in Leeds less than nine minutes late and b) the 8.40am to London (via Newark, where I would meet Ron) never moved in the entire time I was in Leeds. I’d found my seat when an announcement came on to say that because the electrical power system at Leeds was having “some difficulties” and that “this train” was electric – we may be a little delayed. Furthermore, it appeared that overnight, someone had stolen signal cables outside Wakefield, so even when we got started, going would be very slow until after Wakefield. The 09.05am train to London had already been canceled, but this (the 08.40am) was still unsure of its morning’s duties.

So was I!

Because of a derailment near York yesterday [BBC News], the Trans-Pennine routes were in some disarray too. All trains north were disrupted and as a result, many of those to the west were also delayed or canceled. The notice boards were in complete chaos. The guards and assistants were being as helpful as they could be, but things were changing so fast that even they were relying on the boards – which were not helpful. I eventually got back to Huddersfield on a train that (it would appear) had been kidnapped and turned around. I think it had been heading north and I think that the driver was still determined to take it north, but the announcement and the dodgy boards now said it would go back west to Liverpool. Who convinced the driver of this I’m not sure, but it did go back west. As I got off in Huddersfield, there was still some uncertainty about its destination – Manchester Piccadilly or Liverpool Lime Street. I suspect that the problem here was driver-knowledge. If he wasn’t conversant with the ‘road’ he wouldn’t be able to take the train beyond Manchester (more Trans-Pennine trains go to Manchester than to Liverpool, so this is likely).

Anyway, having got to Huddersfield, my problems were not over. I’d missed the local bus (twice a day – once on Wednesdays 🙂 and knew I had a short walk ahead of me – but hadn’t anticipated the swim. The bottom of my hill was flooded. Whilst it doesn’t look much, it did fill my shoes and I had to walk home with shoes full of shitty water. Then a shower, then blog, then work!

Why can we not prepare for weather?