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Zapping the decorator

I have a regular annual booking with Rob, my trusty decorator, to keep on top of the paintwork of this house. There’s always something peeling or fading or needing attention. This year, my priority was to get the summerhouse sorted out. This is a rather lovely little Victorian shed on the topmost terrace of the garden. I’ve neglected it shamefully for years – since Christopher died I’ve barely been in there, and certainly haven’t felt in the mood for having a barbecue on the decking. But when my parents were here for a short visit a few months ago, I took them for a walk around the garden, and my father pointed out that the summerhouse and decking were looking decidedly the worse for wear. The decking was rotten in several places, and if I didn’t get something done about the peeling paintwork on the door and windows then rot would set in there too, and I might end up without a summerhouse at all!

I have to say that Rob’s done another excellent job. The decking has been power-washed, the rotten timbers replaced, and the whole lot treated with several coats of wood stain/preservative. The summerhouse too is virtually unrecognisable – the sash windows open once again, the peeling paint is no more, and the whole place looks much more inviting and cared for.

Rob did uncover something of a worrying problem though. There is an electricity supply to the summerhouse, which is run along a supporting catenary cable from the eaves of the house up to the very top of the garden. The supporting cable, which ought to be completely dead electrically-speaking, is tied off to the balustrade of the decking, making a very firm support. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as dead as it ought to be. In fact it was quite definitely live! Not enough to give anyone a nasty shock, fortunately, but quite enough to make Rob’s arm tingle and the hairs stand on end when he brushed against it!

That really wasn’t acceptable! I can’t risk electrocuting my decorator! I’ve already booked him to come back next year! Not to mention that I’d feel very uneasy sitting up on the decking, knowing that if the catenary cable was live, then so was the balustrade and by extension the decking……. Having a barbecue wearing welly-boots for insulation purposes is definitely a step too far!

So I thought I’d better call in a professional to have a look at the situation, and make it safe. Another expense that I hadn’t budgeted for, but I couldn’t in all conscience leave it as it was. Just imagine the consequences if it got worse and the gardener did himself a mischief while he was pruning the hedge! I have a very thorough electrician who spent several hours tracking down what he recognised as an earth-leakage fault. It turned out to be in the external power point which the builders use for their power tools. It had clearly overheated at some point, as the plastic had melted slightly around one of the sockets. He didn’t have a spare RCD-protected socket in his van, so for now he’s terminated the cables safely, and taken away the offending item to source a replacement. That’s not particularly urgent, nor should it be a big job, so we’ve arranged for that to be done one morning later this week. Most importantly though, he assures me that the summerhouse and decking is now safe and appropriately earthed. That’s a relief.