At the end of the Day

While my admiration for Polish workrate, determination and craft skills remains undiminished overall, in every barrel of Class A apples there’s always a Grade I fruitcake. Sadly, I employed him as a gas supply, electronics and rewiring  allrounder during much of the conversion of the old barn here and the latter part of the main house restoration.
His name is Krystyan, and what he did was connect my gas oven in the bigyin, as well as immersion heater and rewiring in the wee jobbie.
The summer just gone having been a scorcher by even French standards, the main oven was rarely if ever used: barbecues were the order of almost every day, especially as (in full recycling mode) I’d been using old wood on the firepit – piling weeds on the top towards the ember stage in order to create charcoal.
But since the start of November, temperatures have plummeted, garden furniture has been stored, the pool covered, and lots of stuff au four cooked. Ever since then, I have had a headache, palpitations, pounding heartbeat and flu-like symptoms involving chest catarrh alongside near-zero energy.
At first I thought decades of alcohol abuse might be implicated (they probably are) but then a new wood-burning stove I’d had fitted starting smoking and the symptoms got worse. So it now sits doing nothing, awaiting the arrival of a special cowl all the way from the Emerald Isle. But despite the fact that my symptoms remained, I blamed the log burner.
My invaluable central heating engineer Ian (required to undo the crock of sloppy rubbish installed by the violent Ginger Cockney conman who put in what he kept calling “han autmatik ch system”) happened to be round repairing more f**kups last week as I was lighting the oven. His immediate reaction on smelling the output was to say there was clear evidence of carbon monoxide ingression, because the gas wasn’t burning efficiently. Not only was this dangerous, he averred, it was also going to use an inordinate amount of gas.
The gas consumption here was twice that of normal last year. What’s more, I Googled the symptoms of CO poisoning….and discovered I had all of them. The last piece of the jigsaw fell into place yesterday when – as I was trying to get the temperature up in the kitchen by blasting out heat at Mark 8 on the open oven – the CO alarm which is at the other end of the house – suddenly went bananas. Once I moved it into the kitchen, the detector starting beeping like George Osborne after sniffing a line of coke and then swallowing a Geiger Counter.
The gas supply to the oven was effected by Krystyan.
Two weeks ago – having reached a level of paranoia that was almost off the scale (but quite acceptable when dealing with All Things Krystyan) I had Ian the heating expert look over the Polish immersion heater installed to produce hot water in the New Barn.
“Lovely piece of kit,” he opined, “where’s the thermostatic backstop?” Ian might just as well have asked me where the nearest services were on the Cracow North Circular road.
After some fiddling and investigation he went a whiter shade of pale.
“Had you turned this on,” he said, “it would’ve exploded within three days at the most…and taken most of that wall with it”. It has now been made safe.
The installation of the Immersionka Heaterski was effected by Krystyan.
So anyway, there I was last night, in the restored barn for the first time, cooking on a relatively low-wattage paella maker, quaffing a modestly robust Italian red and musing about why or indeed how Krystyan had managed to wire the place without putting in a 25 watt circuit. I mused in this fashion because the brief I’d given him that the ONLY energy forms I wanted in the barn were electricity and logs…and Mr K knows I am a keen cook.
This too came to light thanks to the Sherlock Holmes powers of observation resident in Ian’s brain. But he said (quite correctly as it happens) that these days there are lots of gadgets available to overcome this….as I knew already from having employed them in Donald the motor home. And thus was I content. Ish.
Any mood even remotely approaching contentment left me as, halfway through cooking a chilli in the paella dish, the entire electrical system tripped, leaving me in total darkness – with just the light from the wooden fire ch system to guide me over vacuum cleaner wires, half-empty packing cases and bottles of floor cleaner. A torch, three candles and much pragmatism later, I was back in the main house.
Ray the sparks’ skills were called in today to fix it. As I speak, everything is working again. But being a secular Buddhist, I am reminding myself that All Things Must Pass, and Nothing Lasts Forever.
The wiring was – as you’ll have realised some time ago – undertaken by Krystyan.
PS The last thing he did before falling off the radar (and probably his trolley for all I know) was fit a high-power, low electricity consumption movement-sensitive outside light, also of Polish manufacture. It lives up to the low-consumption promise a treat, as it has so far failed to function either sensitively, or even at the most basic level of throwing out light, as such.


On Windows 10, there is yet more evidence of the contemporary manufacturer’s inability to offer real choice – or indeed, take no for an answer.
Every day on my laptop screen, the Silo pondlife put up a truly unpleasant photoshopped idealisation of the Pennines running down through a Malaysian jungle valley to the Mediterranean, and ask “Do you like this image?”….to which, each and every day, I tick ‘no’. Thank you for telling us they say, tomorrow we will try another one.
Nowhere is the option for me to say “Stop this before I bomb the Microsoft UK HQ” ; or to be more exact, if there is I haven’t found it yet – but whyTF should I have to bother looking?
Also absent is the much sought-after option to write “F**k off and leave this to me”.
They do not work for us, we work for them. It is a trend. We have only ourselves to blame. NB, this can be applied to all institutions and large companies across the Globe.

20 thoughts on “At the end of the Day

  1. Get GasSafe engineers for gas and ECEIH or whatever they call it for sparkies over from UK JW.
    Otherwise you may end up the richest man in the cemetery. I assume no such regulatory equivalent standards are meted out by the French to itinerant temp Polak labour in France as they are all ” cash only ” ?? And don t forget ICAEW only accountants to fend off the incompetent UK tax office!!


  2. IMHO and experience in industry over recent years in the UK, perhaps 1 in 10 east europeans at most have the skills that they say they have. The others are outright chancers who will work for minimum wage (tax free) and be happy to get tax credits with all the trimmings, whilst boasting ‘ this is four times my wage’ at home.
    Windows 10 is only secure if we switch the computer OFF after every session, and the mouse if possible detached.. No more pretty images either.


  3. In the UK all work must be carried out to Building Regulations. France has an equivalent. When you come to sell the property the buyer’s solicitor will want evidence that all work meets said regs!

    Enforcement of these building regulations is the responsibility of the local Préfecture and Mairie. Their representatives may inspect works in progress; carry out tests, and request to see all official documents. This right can be exercised at any time within two years of the completion of the construction. The builders are not relieved of any of their liability by such inspections.

    In general, only work that is in accordance with the Règles de l’art as stipulated in applicable regulations, that is, DTUs, the officially published standards or avis techniques, will be given insurance cover.

    As for Microsoft, I’m dumping them for a Google Chromebook.


  4. Has anyone anywhere have anything good to say about Windows 10 I ask in all humility knowing nothing about it, but like most of the human race I get asked every time I do anything to “subscribe” to this and it is driving me nuts!


  5. Just say no to Windows 10. There are better things out there, though I fear to utter their names lest our gracious host grow a beard you could lose a goat in, forswear barbers forever and go on tour with a parrot.

    Anyway, I speak not of Apple products here, nor yet of the spawn of that Orrible corporation who must not be named. There’s one named after a garden herb he might like to try, though.


  6. As the days start to cool, an inordinate amount of condensation is another clue to the presence of carbon monoxide, which can usually be noticed before significant bodily effects have become apparent.


  7. Mudplugger: I rather think that given the toxicity of carbon monoxide (which is the current candidate of choice for gassing badgers, if/when this ever resumes) you’d drop dead before excess humidity from an unvented gas burner (which is what our host is being plagued with) was at all noticeable. CO really is very nasty stuff, and when it combines with haemoglobin, it turns the haemoglobin bright red.

    That then gives any responding paramedic a patient who appears healthy and rosy (unlike the ashen, blue-grey colouration of a normal oxygen deprivation case) yet is gasping to get enough oxygen. That is, if the patient is still alive; carbon monoxide inhaled whilst a person is asleep merely sends them deeper and deeper until there is no escape.

    There is actually a gap in the holiday goods market here. A combined smoke and monoxide detector with a handy travel alarm clock built in would sell like hot cakes, and probably save many a life into the bargain.


  8. Stating the bleedin obvious after the event , but the two trades on any refurb not to risk ,gas and electric . One could add Grounwork which is what I do as its jolly hard to put footings right once the walls are up !.


  9. Strike me pink – which, as Bob correctly observes is the common colour of those suffering from CO poisoning, that was close, on peu mourir comme ca sans doute, m’sieur. Haemoglobin is the oxygen transporter of nature’s choice for many living things but there is a design fault: it would far rather combine with carbon monoxide than with oxygen. Thus, at a relatively small number of parts per million in atmosphere, it is extremely dangerous and regularly causes fatalities. CO, as Ian rightly observed, is a product of incomplete combustion; where there is complete combustion of (methane) gas, the products are carbon dioxide and water – CH4+O2=CO2+H2O (plus heat of course). Where combustion is incomplete, often due to lack of oxygen (vitiation) or flame impingement/cooling, you get CO plus more water plus a bunch of other carbon based compounds that smell funny and make your eyes sting (usually) and less heat. CO itself, however, is colourless and odourless. And deadly. The cooker, presumably a flueless appliance, is probably the culprit rather than the gas installation pipework – is it jetted to burn the type of gas you are using? Is there an adequate supply of oxygen for combustion, or are there any ventilation issues? Wobbly yellow flames and signs of sooting are common signs of incomplete combustion and, therefore, the presence of CO.

    Electrically heated mains unvented water heaters are very popular in France. These appliances require a working thermostat and overheat cutout, a means of accommodating water expansion and a pressure relief valve with correctly terminated safety discharge pipework. Also, of course, the electrical circuit needs to be capable of safely supplying the immersion heater (usually about 3 kw) via sufficiently sized and rated flat twin and earth cable for the fixed wiring and heat resisting flex from the wall outlet to the immersion. A 15 amp circuit should be adequate, depending on the current draw of the particular heating element(s).

    The installation of both the above types of appliance needs to be carried out by a ‘member of a class of persons etc’ and notified to Local Authority Building Control in UK, don’t know about la France.

    The wood burner is also a potential source of CO, as is any carbon based fossil fuel burning appliance; it is important that it has a correctly functioning flue and, no less importantly, an adequate supply of oxygen for combustion. If the cooker is in the same room or in a room which communicates with the kitchen, it is vital that the amount of ventilation for combustion air recognises this.

    Don’t f*ck about with CO, it’s a killer. Someone should probably take Krystan’s tools away.

    Gas Safe registration number supplied on request – it’s an old one, only five digits!


  10. It does sound like you have had a lucky escape John but you should still go to the doctors/hospital secondary problems can also be life threatening through prolonged exposure which you seem to have suffered,you still may need treatment!


  11. @JS

    Thanks for posting. I wish the Blairite war criminals foaming at the mouth to bomb in Syria could be forced to listen to this brave man.

    In a similar vein, this is a blast from the past, but it is astounding how relevant it seems today. It was a sad day when this man left Westminster. How ashamed he would surely be to witness his son leading the charge for bombing Syria.


  12. Excellent article about the illegality of a UK bombing campaign. (Not to mention the illegal nature of the NATO/GCC/Israeli interventions in Syria to date.)

    Compare and contrast the UN Security Council resolution2249 and the Syria resolution that parliament are to vote on.

    “That this House notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter;

    Unedited text of the actual UN resolution 2249 of 19 November:

    “5. Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter…”

    International law and the United Nations Charter forbid the attacking of any target in Syria without the permission of the Syrian Government.

    (Thanks to Tom Welsh on Craig Murray’s blog for that one.)


  13. Canexpat: I can tell you a story about the Arabs. I was in Dhahran 1994-1999 mapping marine biotopes of the Arabian Gulf – a humble mapping techie. Our Marine Science Group undertook projects for Saudi Aramco. We got on well with the Water Resources people downstairs in our Research Institute. The Saudis/Arabs I knew were really nice people, polite, educated and great fun to work with.

    One morning in 1998 Operation Desert Fox under Bill Clinton took off over my head (literally – I saw Tornadoes laden with bombs for Baghdad flying over my apartment). Badie who always came up to me and shook my hand as all Arabs do (then they put their hand on their heart) glared at me and said “Shall I shake your hand today? Your people are murderers!” From that point on I knew that the world didn’t work the way I was told it did.


  14. Interesting Jeremy I am also an ex Aramcon 1997-2002, I had a female friend who said she saw an F117 stealth fighter take off from the air force base which bordered the Aramco compound round about then , she was innocently telling people what she had seen and all the guys were impressed and wished they had seen it also. She was however sacked and out of the country 2 days later( Aramco were very good at removing troublesome people on often very little pretext and very quickly).
    So we all asked what was an American F117 doing in a Saudi air base and why was this woman sacked for reporting a cool sighting of a classic plane.


  15. You really should track this Krystyn down and send him some jolly legal papers (written by a comedic friend of yours in the legal profession) serving him to attend court for ‘attempted manslaughter’. One would hope that he would hire a lawyer compos mentis enough to comment acerbically that you can’t ‘attempt manslaughter’ as that would imply foresight and/or intention, both of which knock down a defence of manslaughter stone dead…….


  16. RouterAl – Small world. We worked for the Environmental Dept of Aramco over the fence from you in King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. or Little Afghanistan. I spent a lot of time with the Travelling Naturalists of Al Khobar which I am sure we can openly mention now as I think it is a shadow if what it used to be. We drove out in the desert and saw so much fantastic stuff. Not many know just how wonderful Saudi was before the “peace” bombs started flying. Of course you will know about the famous “poet” Al Gosaibi who all us Brits loved!!!!! ;)


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