A few weeks ago Tonia was browsing the intranet at work, which has a section that’s a sort of Craig’s List for Council employees. You can find all sorts there. One listing in particular caught her eye; a bunch of teak mid-century dining room furniture, listed for FREE. Seems a guy was clearing out his mother’s house, and just wanted to be rid of the lot.
Mid-century furniture is a bit of a thing in our house. Tonia prefers British made, Haywood or G Plan, while I favor Danish designers, like Ole Wanscher, and Koford Larsen. We both agree, we’d love to collect, but know that we don’t really have room to be collectors. We have to content ourselves with collecting pictures of the stuff instead.
The furniture listing offered a dining table exactly like ours, chairs to match, and a number of sideboards. Mid-century sideboards are also a bit of a thing in our house, so we were excited. Undaunted by the fact that we already have a lovely sideboard (full of yarn) we asked for the smallest sideboard of the lot anyway. Because how hard could it be to fit another sideboard in the house?
Tonia brought the sideboard home this week, and instantly, we knew it was a mistake. Maybe a mistake. It didn’t look that big in the picture. So it sat, hugely, in the living room that night and, when we woke up the next morning, it was still there. We debated whether to keep it, or find it a good home.
After Tonia left for work I started shoving furniture around the room, in a manner that has come to be known as “swoosh-bang”. Swooshing involves scooping up something that is out of place. Banging is the sound the cupboards make when I put the thing away. I didn’t wake up with a plan to swoosh-bang that day, but then I never plan for it. It just sort of happens. I swoosh-banged for an hour, and not only managed to make the new sideboard fit, I also filled it right up with yarn, for which I make no apology. Who amongst us hasn’t assessed furniture for yarn storage potential?
So everything fit and it was looking good. But of course all of the art on the walls was now in the wrong place, so that was my next task. I took stuff down, and dusted, banged in new nails, and hung art in new places. And then, as I was tidying up, the power went off. I was listening to the radio, but I hadn’t flipped any switches or anything, so it was weird. I went upstairs to the breaker box and, sure enough, one was tripped. When I went to flip it back, it sparked and popped. I tried again, and the same thing happened. Not good.
I called my neighbor Frank, and he called Simon, and they came round and together unplugged everything on that circuit. They poked around. They tested outlets. And then they said, “Call an electrician.”
Ian, the electrician came the next day, and he cut power and isolated things, and tried one thing and another. After about an hour he pointed to the pictures I had hung the day before, and he asked, “How long have these been here?”
I told him that I’d just hung them, and that actually, I had noticed something funny about the ease with which the nails went into the wall just there. And he pointed to the outlet near the floor, directly below the pictures, and said, the wires come down the wall and go into here.
Ian cut away the plaster, and exposed the plastic trunking where the wires go through. There, in the trunking, were two little nail holes. The nails had not gone into the wire inside the trunking, but they had pierced the sheath of the wire, and it was enough to cause a short, and take out the whole circuit.
I didn’t hit those wires carrying 220-240V when I drove the little nail into the wall. If I had, I’d have been toast. I was a whisker away from disaster that morning, and didn’t even know it. How I managed to live here eleven years and not learn that you should never pound nails above an electrical outlet, is a mystery. I guess it must be one of those things you learn when you’re young in Britain, and I didn’t grow up here, so I didn’t learn it. Poke a fork into an outlet in the US, and you’ll get a shock, certainly, and maybe even a burn. Poke a fork into an outlet in Britain, and you’re dead. I know better than to do the latter, but the nail thing was not in my knowledge bank. Probably, if you have lived in Britain your whole life, you know this, but it still bears repeating. Don’t pound nails into the wall above a socket. Seriously. You could die.
Dealing with a swoosh bang, and a nearly near death experience all in one week has, I’m afraid, put me off my stride. I’m not as far into the Cast On production process as I’d hoped to be, but I’m determined to pedal a little faster next week. Despite being behind schedule, and several drachmas poorer for pounding that nail, there are a couple bright sides to my cautionary tale. I did not die, and I’m very happy about that. And, as it happens, my new best friend Ian, the electrician, raises alpacas. And you should have heard me gay gasp when he told me that.