11/11/2016 (started 26/10/16)
I wish I had a brain, though I suppose you might ask what I'm wishing with. Today's task is to set up and start two new bank accounts with the Co-operative bank and transfer the Direct Debits, Standing Orders, incoming pension payments etc currently running on my Royal Bank of Scotland accounts. It all works remarkably smoothly and I'm glad to say the Co-op do most of it for me, but there are still loads of little bits to sort out, such as the standing orders, which I have to shift myself, and there are various elements that have to be right, like going paperless, to gain various benefits. Some are quite straight-forward, like going paperless, but will require regular actions like printing off statements for the tax people. Others require a working brain such as using one of those little card readers to set up standing orders, that's one of the fun bits when you have to copy numbers from reader to computer and computer to reader, a breeze for you non-dyslexics (thank the deity of your choice for spellcheck, or at least the Mac equivalent) I keep finding I've typed the wrong number into the wrong keyboard, or not told it which card I'm using, and then the system 'times out' with tiny red messages and a smug little bonk noise. Still I think I've managed it without transferring my worldly, if imaginary, goods to some lucky stranger.
I set out on this marathon exercise because the RBS ticked me off one too many times. The have always done a very good job of the actual banking services you understand, apart from flogging me some PPI back in the dim and distant and pretending they've lost all record of it..... It's the little background bits. I found their idea of investment of my money was to make as much as possible with little regard for ethics, so I found myself supporting such delights as Canadian Tar Sands, coal, oil and nuclear weapons.
They have reduced some investments in fossil fuels, but I think that was because of the drop in profitability rather than ethical worries, otherwise I'd expect them to pull out of WMDs as well.
I was somewhat offended when the cheeky beggars told me there's no interest on my account because the Bank of England has set it at near enough zero. Odd that, the interest rate on loans and overdrafts being offered to Joe Public definitely isn't zero. Some devious little banker just sent me a dummy credit-card with the 'special offer' of 33% pa, presumably because when I set up the new accounts there was a credit check. They spotted it.. oh look somebody might be a bit strapped for cash, let's see if we can sucker him into a real crisis. Come to that, who told them? I'm all for transparency, but data farming is a profitable business rather than a public service.
So anyway, coming down off the ceiling, I'm moving to the Co-op which is owned by the people with money in it. Still no interest but a few benefits, some of which I can donate to charity. Amnesty International for instance. The other RBS habit I discovered was letting businesses get into debt and then asset stripping them. Mainly farmers as far as I can tell, which rankles a bit. Of course banks have always done that, but it looked to me as though the RBS had made something of an art form of it. That combined with their threats to leave Scotland if it became independent...well you will know that would tick me right off. The Co-op is unlikely to be perfect, I mean who goes into banking to lose money? Well.... apart from the UK government, but the Co-op were rated as most ethical by Which magazine and that's a start, and frankly I'm not bothered if an ex-chairman uses hard drugs. Meantime I was lookinat suitablle chhristmas presents (the cat has come to see what I'm typing and walked over my hands and the keyboard) a friend found https://www.aluminium-scaffoldtowers.co.uk which would do nicely, and I could use it to get over my acrophobia, in fact I could probably look down on it. Maybe some socks would be a better idea. Rather cheaper too.
Other activities, well Winter is approaching, although it generally doesn't sidle in gently but rather arrives with an audible bang. Usually somebody's door being torn off. However I'm hoping for a nice calm 2 or 3 days so that I can put a new roof on the porch. I changed the shape of it a while ago and that stopped most of the leaks, but it really needs longer bits of poly-carbonate. I have those now but being 4.5 metres long, they'll be blown to somewhere in the Borders if I try to fit them in a breeze. So they may have to wait after the Spring Equinox.
Winter usually means indoor work, unless I take down a few trees, they dry out faster if cut when it's cold, although being pine they need several seasons anyway. I'll have to remember to log them when it's reasonably warm though (Zero centigrade or thereabouts) as chainsawing hard-frozen wood is no fun at all. There is also a need to split the wood before it dries out, splitting seasoned wood is harder
All in all you can keep warm several times. Felling, logging, getting rid of the brash, splitting, stacking, and finally sitting in front of the fire. I'd say it was free, but if I charged for all the work I'd probably have to sell all the wood to be able to pay me.
I've done a little paving to make sitting out in the occasional bit of sun nicer. The gravel worked well enough but weeds seem to grow through anything and it's difficult sitting comfortably when you can see them growing. These grey slabs are not too pretty, but they have the advantages of being very reasonably priced, recycled from Holland apparently, and thick enough to go anywhere without cracking. If I find prettier ones these could go into the next garage floor. Failing that It would be quite interesting to polish them, polished concrete looks lovely, but I think that would make them unacceptably slippery, so it'll be just a bit of pressure washing for now.
There's a new bit of decking outside the summer-house. Recycled again and pressure washed, (the pressure washer is recycled too), the planks were a bit lethal because they'd been in shade previously, and when I fitted them they were dry and felt fine, but Fiona found them very slippery once they were rained on, so a quick blast was called for. I must put a warning on the pressure washer to remind myself to wear waterproof clothing, when the jet hits the corrugated deck it goes all over the place and a few seconds later you might as well carry on because you can't get any wetter. Still, now it's done we can sit and watch the pond from inside or out. It's amazing how much wildlife turns up if you slow down. I've had tree-creepers 18 inches from my hand, and of course the frogs stare rather suspiciously at you, but they've got sitting still down to a T, whatever that means. At the moment it's mostly robins and blackbirds, especially if you've been digging. I'm still hoping for hedgehogs, but although we have made escape ramps for the pond and suitable homes out of branches and leaves I've not seen any in years.
After various bits of travel and visiting I picked up a few bits of machinery from Ian, a friend from way back who went to University with Fiona. He's in publishing now, his company, Langford Press, does a lot of wildlife based high quality books, but you can look at the link to let them speak for themselves.
Anyway, I have been having lots of fun fixing up the machinery, and finding out what makes them tick, hum, chatter and spin. The drill press had the same problem as my wood lathe, the capacitor had blown - literally in this case - so onto eBay for a couple of 8 μF units. Fortunately the blown one had still got its specs on, and now both machines are working well. I was having such fun that I dug out the old petrol driven electricity generator that had been standing in a shed for years - not mine, I don't leave delicate stuff in damp sheds. (much) And with a bit of care and repair it runs nicely. The generator is the blue thing at the front right and the drill press, black and blue, is at the back left.
The drill should prove useful, once I've found a drive belt because the current one looks a little tired, and the generator is now a spare spare if you see what I mean. it is not very powerful but will run a caravan, or the LED lights in the house and maybe the television. So if there's a power-cut I can still have reasonable comfort if we use the wood burner for heat. However I might have to sell or give away one or two as I now have four generators.
Although these only cost me a couple of hours tinkering and about £4 for the capacitors, It's an odd habit, fixing things I don't need but it's all educational and occasionally someone needs a bit of kit. What I'd really like is a steam driven one to run a hammer-mill, although live high pressure steam can be a bit lethal. I think it should be possible to turn the heaps of chipped wood and shredded brash into fuel, by burning some of it. Some time ago there were cars running on wood gas, maybe that would work, although efficiency is not very high on old equipment. having said that, most modern cars are only 20% efficient.