Life in a Dol house
2017 - week 40

Don't wear red if you're shopping at Bauhaus

As the seasons advance, there is a perceptible change in the colours of the foliage around my home. 

The light has changed too, it is more mellow and the sky is a clear powder blue. This is sunrise, but at this time of year, because of the hills to the south, the sun appears some 40 minutes after the published sunrise time and long after dawn.

I tried to get the finishing nails I needed locally, to continue laying the hardwood floorboards, but I failed.

​On the island they were either way too long and thick or way too thin. I already have a drawer full of 1.0 and 1.5 mm diameter finishing nails in the workshop but I needed preferably a 2 mm or a 2.5 mm diameter nail for the thickness of the floor I am laying, so I decided to do a run to Split to visit Bauhaus and a couple of other places for things that were on my list. There is an ever growing variety of nails, all made for different purposes, but don't ask for them on Hvar...

I am using a technique called "Blind Nailing".

But as I do not have a nail gun, a pilot hole must be drilled, then every nail is driven by hand, and finished with a nail punch to knock it into the corner in the groove.  Special nails are required.

In the UK (before the BREXIT vote) we have been told that Europe is the paragon of standardisation, that the UK has to follow. 

The reality is much different.

Take electrical fittings for example. It is correct to say that there is a more or less standard electrical plug, but even this hides variations. Can you spot the difference? It's minute, but enough to prevent interchangeability.

​The Schuko style plug is a two round pin affair, with possibly an earth connector on the edge, that is common through much of Europe, or in France, with a central earth pin. 

The UK, Denmark and Switzerland all use completely different plugs which require adaptors to work in Schuko sockets. The Italian style of vertical three pin sockets can still be found in Spain and here in Croatia.

Not everyone who reads this blog speaks English as their first language or has a degree level qualification in DiY, so I should explain that in English the "plug" is the connector on the end of the wire that is attached to an electrical appliance. 

The socket is the hole in the wall that the plug is pushed into, and the pattress box is something you cannot see, which is buried in the wall and hides all the wires.

Schuko plugs don't always have safety gates across the holes, which in the UK prevent children poking fingers, or anything else down the hole and into contact with the live wires, with the potential for electrocution. 

The earth is always connected to the earth terminal, but the live/brown wire and return/blue wire can be connected interchangeably unlike the UK where one terminal is marked "Live" and the other "Return". The sockets are not difficult to wire and look quite neat when done.

But the big problem is the fittings which are not interchangeable between different manufacturers. 

So having purchased the blue pattress boxes, the grey frames to hold the sockets and face plates, all from one maker Modul, when I was wiring the sockets for the computer, in the study, I discovered I needed a two pin socket to fill a gap. All I had were some Modys. Don't be fooled (as I was) because Modys and Modul look the same, does not mean they are compatible.

I had some half width sockets from Modys but these do not fit the frames made by Modul. And as I had bought these on the mainland, I needed to go back to the electrical wholesaler to get the parts I needed. But once purchased and back home, I could complete the wiring.

So with a list of some 30+ items, large and small I was on the 05.30 ferry on Tuesday. 

The holiday season is almost over and once again There is enough space in the lounge for everyone who wanted to, to lay flat and sleep on the journey to Split. I managed over an hour of shuteye.

Once off the ferry I headed to the electrical wholesalers and then to Bauhaus. 

With my shopping list on an App, and pre sorted into the various sections in the store, I was in the wide aisle where nuts, screws, bolts and washers are located, when I was approached twice by other customers with deep and technical questions in Croatian about which fixings they should use. 

I couldn't answer but I put it down to the fact that I knew how to work the weighing and barcode machine in the centre of this photograph.

You only have to look at the vast range of ironmongery available along both sides of a long aisle to realise that it is only the most basic, basic items that you can get on the island. 

I needed some highly specific wall plugs for the central heating radiators, with bolts the exact size fit the holes, and not so long that they extended through the partition wall.

This wall is one of the century old wooden lath constructions, filled with sticks and branches and held together with lime mortar. 

The German company FISCHER (sold at Bauhaus) make a huge range of specialist and general fixings, but to hold a 30 KG radiator requires some secure mounts. I am using the new generation nylon UX series 8x50 mm plugs.

These can expand to fill a void, will contract behind a plasterboard wall, or can be used as a conventional wall plug if required.

​With two boxes of different size plugs in the trolley, it was rapidly filling up.

I accept completely that a small island builders merchants cannot possibly stock the variety and quantity of items a DiY superstore can, but one thing I do find annoying is being given wrong information. 

And everything, in every shop on the island from sand and gravel to nuts and bolts (except perhaps limestone) and the locally baked (and very tasty) bread, has to come on the ferry!

The uneven floor in the study needs a variety of sizes of block polystyrene insulation under the wooden boards. 

20, 30, 40 and 50 mm blocks have been used, sometimes in combination, but it a couple of places I needed 10 mm too. 

My enquiries with one local builders merchants, well know to islanders for its unhelpful, verging on the rude staff, elicited the advice that "they don't make that thickness"

But when in the Bauhaus Profi Depot, I found a rack stuffed full of 10 mm thick sheets. 

I do object to being given patently wrong advice. If you don't know or are not sure, there is no shame in saying so!

Then, as I was looking for a wooden handle for a mattock, I was approached by another customer with a question. I explained I was English and the gentleman said he thought I was staff!

It then dawned on me that I was wearing a deep red tee-shirt, similar in colour, but without the branding, to the ones worn by Bauhaus staff. 

I was approached twice more before I reached the checkout! 

The cashiers laughed when I told them that next time I'll not wear red, and they should have an "embarrassment warning" for customers on their website... Do not wear red when you shop at Bauhaus!

After Bauhaus I went to see the new IKEA showroom that opened at the start of the month in Split. 

I have to saying was left underwhelmed and disappointed. I arrived at 10.30 and it was closed, not opening until 12 noon during the week. Not opening until midday makes it difficult for island dwellers to visit IKEA and get back to the port for the ferry home.

The sign says "Hey!" and then goes on to give the opening times.​

I was expecting to see the familiar blue and gold branding, but there was none, even on the outside. 

You really had to search hard to find the store, hidden in a corner in the basement and for all the world it does not look as though it is really open for business yet. I will not be going back for a while. 

The name over the door was in grey on black, not in the familiar type face. It was almost as though for all the world, they didn't want to be found?

Back down at the port of Split, it was obvious the season has ended. 

Gone are the long queues of vehicles waiting for the ferry. 

At 12 noon, I was the first in line on an otherwise empty quay. I had time to wander around the now quiet Green Market

then enjoy a picnic on the Riva followed by a coffee, then it was on the ferry for the long journey home. Sitting in the sunshine on the top deck, catching up on some reading makes a tedious journey bearable.

​At the end of August (Week 35 - I reported on the fire that had ignighted on the Kabal peninsula.

This is at the entrance to the Fjord (to the right below) which forms the entrance to the port and harbour of Stari grad.

​The ferry passes the peninsula on its approach to the Trajekt and the scars are all too clear to see.

​From close up, the entire hillside from the tide line upwards has been consumed. Little remains except the white Karst bedrock. Near the top blackened tree stumps stand in serried ranks, before there are trees browned and burnt at the interface of where the helicopters dropping water were able to contain the fire and stop it spreading. Beyond are the green canopies of trees which survived. This slope used to be completely covered in vegetation.

​It will be very many years before this slope has a covering of greenery, let alone trees again. I will watch with interest to see when the first of the pioneer species become visible.

Once off the ferry, and my roof load ensured I was close to pole position for the start when the vehicle ramp was lowered.

It is less than 10 minutes to home, and a load of abuse from No 1 feline, who does not like it when his routine (read meals) is upset. 

With the car unloaded and put to bed, it's time to plan the rest of the week's work.

With a car full of bits and pieces, I started work again on Wednesday, on the study floor. Fitting the boards around where the radiator tails will connect is a finicky task.

​I am determined this is to be as neat as I can possibly make it. At the same time, I want to make sure that I can access the pipe joints easily, should the need ever arise, so I have developed a system where the end of one board has been cut and the pipes will emerge through the centre.

This makes it easier to cut the holes and will make a neater finished job. 

I am also using fittings on the radiator which allow the inlet and outlet pipes to connect in the base, rather than the sides, so there will be the minimum of ugly pipework and valves visible.

It took all day to construct the frame work, cut and fix the surrounding boards and install the HEP20 joints. 

I will use 15 mm painted copper pipe tails to connect to the valves on the radiators, and these will emerge through the lift out piece of board. 

Careful and accurate measuring is essential, to keep to my tolerance of +/- 1 mm.

With the boards cut, I installed the first of the Wavin HEP20 joints. The installation manual calls for all pipework to be pressure tested before commissioning, so I decided it would be easier and better to do the pressure testing before the flooring goes down. 

Using enough pipe, connectors and clamps to create a Horological Tintinnabulator worthy of Roland Emmet, I gently turned the tap on and watched the pressure build in the hot water side, with a "catch pan" underneath, just in case....

The mains water pressure is usually between 7 and 8 BAR, so quite high. 

I checked the joints and there were no leaks, so I left the pipework pressurised for the recommended hour. 

7 BAR is a considerably higher pressure than in an open central heating system and at the end of the test, still no leaks. The same process was carried out for the cold return side. Result: test passed.

By the end of Saturday, I have completed some ⅔ of the flooring.

​There is still another week or so's work involved in the study, more pipework, fixing the radiators to the wall and finishing the flooring, so I have missed my completion deadline of 1st October and will have to answer to the Clerk of Works, who is singularly unimpressed with it all!

​In the garden, I have been joined by several adult Preying Mantis.

And with the rain, I have weedlings growing everywhere. 

I need to do ​something about them very soon.