Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Tin Mine, Me and the Indonesians

'This the first time we meet lady mining engineer,' the little Indonesian man told me.

I smiled at him. 'I am not a mining engineer. I work on The Mining Journal.'

'Ah yes. The Mining Journal. We know.'

This was in the mid-1960s and The Mining Journal, a weekly magazine, in those days was air mailed around the world. It was also a time in history when the British Government and Indonesia were not officially on speaking terms. Where were we? In Cornwall and about to go down into one of the last (maybe the last) working tin mine.

We were all very stylishly dressed - overalls, boots and helmets. On my arrival I had had to sign a disclaimer absolving the company in the case of accidents, then handed overalls and shown to a room where I could put them on. Knowing it would be hot underground I took off my trousers and shirt and discovered that the overalls were rather too large and missing buttons. Fortunately I had a supply of large safety pins in my bag. The dishy looking man who was taking care of me grinned when he saw the pins. I should confess that at this stage I was unaware of the presence of the Indonesians and looking forward to going down into the tunnels with Handsome.

Then it was time for the boots - about four inches too long - and a helmet. This was okay until the lamp was fitted onto the front and my neck disappeared into my shoulders. Was it ever heavy! Then came the fun of putting on the webbing belt to hold the battery - large and heavy - at the back of my waist. I think my knees buckled.

Following my introduction to the Indonesians we were given various instructions before getting into the cage and dropping down into the depths of the world. Then it was walking and climbing up and down rungs set into the walls. My feet weren't much help there as the boots were too long but at least Handsome stayed behind me, presumably to catch me if I fell.

It was all very eerie as the only illumination was from our lamps. When one of the Indonesians realised my lamp didn't always point in the right direction he made me take off the helmet, made an adjustment to the fitting strap and I put it back on. It fitted! Until then my head had moved around inside it.

I shan't bore you with the details of tin mining. We were shown seams of tin ore and various other minerals and had it all explained to us.

Eventually we returned to the surface and divested ourselves of the helmets, I said goodbye to my Indonesian friends, then went to change back into my own clothes.

Hmm. No date with Handsome. Well he was probably happily married.

Later, whenever I thought over that special visit, I thought that I and my little men must have looked like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs! I did enjoy myself but wouldn't want to go down another mine thank you very much.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Buy to Rent Landlords

Although I am sure there are some excellent private landlords somewhere 'out there', my experience leads me to the conclusion that most are get-rich-quick merchants and b....r the clients.

Slap on a coat of paint, lay cheap (maybe secondhand) carpet, put up past their use by date curtain rails, install a reconditioned oven (which is usually fitted by cowboys and never works properly), cowboy double glazing (which leaks), double or even thirdhand night storage heaters. Everything which ticks the boxes for the legal 'rating' and because no officials check it out, passes as up to standard.

Client moves in, discovers faults and begins complaining. So does the landlord because he has to spend money. Eventually client gives up complaining and landlord relaxes. Then gradually increases the already inflated rent.

One landlord I've heard about had two rental flats in 2010 and in 2015 had eight and had given up the day job. Says it all, doesn't it? Wonder if he now drives a Rolls Royce?

A couple I met who had had to give up their house because they couldn't afford the mortgage and affiliate house owning expenses told me that they are now paying more for rent than they had for the loan.

This bubble will eventually burst but in the meantime tenants are getting ripped off.

Monday, 2 May 2016

On the Move

Yet again I am moving, I have been in the current 1 bedroomed flat for over six years. My new flat has two bedrooms and the rent is lower. It has also just been completed renovated, has a brand new kitchen (with all new white goods), a balcony and there is a lift! No more lugging shopping and library books up staircases.

At the moment my living room seems to be more boxes than furniture. And still more boxes to get packed. I know it seems never ending but I WILL get the packing done before the move in two weeks' time.

So far the only personal damage has been to my finger nails (now there's a surprise!) and a badly scraped shin. I had managed to get up onto a chair without incident twice. The third time not so lucky. Lost my balance, put down my left leg and scraped the shin. Yuck. The major problem is that I have acute hearing which affects the balance. Note to self - use the steps.

It would be nice if there was a Fairy Godmother to come and wave a wand so that the packing would get done so much more easily, but I don't really know anyone younger and stronger than me who isn't out at work. Or has other things to do.

For the moment, That's all folks!