Thursday, June 28, 2012

Route for the Etape du Tour

Col de la Croix de Fer

Despite having only two days rest from the Grand Bo’ it was time to get back out for another monster training session. There wasn’t much choice regarding timing because there is another race on Sunday and leaving it any later wouldn’t give enough time to recover for the race. This was intended to be the final really big session in preparation for the Etape and because the weather was good I decided to drive to the Maurienne and complete the final section of the Etape route that I’d been forced off by a storm previously. The boiling hot weather would also be a good test to see how I’d cope with that and whether any change in strategy would be necessary.

The climbs are hard and relentless – with extensive steep sections. There is nothing easy about this route and I’m sure it will be a very nasty surprise for many participants on the Etape. Nothing prepares you for this because it’s just an unreasonable amount of climbing. This brought my own climbing total  over only two rides to over 7000 vertical metres. The surprise for me however was that my legs were OK! I was tired but functional the whole way – keeping my heart rate in the 150s for all the climbing. I can only attribute that to the use of nasal breathing – which once again I held to strictly for over 4 hours before struggling with it.

Normally after a hard race I’m completely unable to work hard physically for about 4 days – and even then wouldn’t think of tackling something too extensive. It appears to me that the problem has been due to serious metabolite build up (lactic acid plus everything that comes with it). Those metabolites seem to have been disrupting my training and also having a big impact on my morale. I didn’t expect to be able to really tackle such a serious workout as today so soon after a very big race – but the shift to nasal breathing and pace control really seems to have straightened things out. I was tired and perhaps less motivated than I’d have preferred – but the body was basically fine and the ascent of the Croix de Fer was 10 minutes faster than the previous time when I was fresh! I’m starting to understand how people can build up some serious fitness.

2012-06-27 16.06.30

This was the first time ever that I’d entered a planned route into Endomondo on my telephone and used it for navigation. It worked perfectly! One single device for sportstracking, navigation, music and photographs – without any hiccups! Pretty stunning really.

The final climb up to La Toussuire is long – between 17km to 18km – and very steep at the start. This will destroy a lot of participants on the actual Etape du Tour. Many of those who push hard at the start of the day simply won’t finish. In the bar at the finish line in Toussuire the owner told me that there are people climbing every day to learn the route and he is glad of it for the business. His little terrier dog was busy chasing lizards and it was really funny until he switched his attention to chasing me! 

On the way home I stopped for a drink and so it was dark for driving the rest of the way. Several kilometres from Aime the road dips down towards the river Isère on a high speed dual carriage way and in my headlights at the side of the road I saw three boys in swimming trunks waving a paddle! This is relly the middle of nowhere on a fast road and I couldn’t stop in time. Knowing the area I pulled off the road further along and went back through the village and uner the dual carriage way to get back onto it and pull over beside them. They had been standing there for an hour in the dark in only their bathing costumes and nobody had stopped for them! I’d been worried in case they had other problems in addition but all was OK. They are here for the World Champion kayak descent competition this week at Aime. I knew there were teams from all over the world here (some with only one member!). It’s just shocking that nobody stopped to help them.


Now for photos with a REAL camera and not a telephone…

Monday, June 25, 2012

La Grande Bo’

Billed as 3700m climbing over 135km on the long course it was with a sense of intrepidation that I went to Le Grand Bornand. The Time Mégève event two weeks earlier demonstrated that my fitness level was no where near high enough and that event had finished by being seriously demoralising – yet this one would be much more difficult. There was however a sense of obligation to do the long course because of the need to prepare for the Etape du Tour on July 8th which has almost 5000m climbing. I had considered pulling out of the Etape due to poor preparation (one vital month lost in Scotland) so this race would really determine whether or not to proceed: Another disaster and I’d have to choose to back off and focus on other more manageable tasks while building up fitness.

So how did it go? Well, I don’t think that I’ve ever participated in any event where it went so perfectly to plan – from start to finish! It was great; enjoyable, exhilarating, challenging, extremely hard and yet a lot of fun.

463 people took part in the event and this was spread over three separate courses. Small events like this are not for the faint hearted – they generally attract only hard-core racers, especially where a lot of climbing is involved. My goal was to race my own race and to avoid being dictated to by the event and other participants – but there was a real problem with this strategy. They had introduced a cut-off time for allowing people onto the long course and those who didn’t make it would be streamed onto the middle course. The cut-off was at 90km and this was after two major climbs – the Col de Mont Saxonnex being particularly steep and brutal – and the time limit was only 4 hours. I had a plan but didn’t know if I would be able to stick to it or not.


This was the first time I’d tried sleeping in the estate car prior to an event. Basically I don’t like hotels and camping is a real fuss so the simplicity of just sleeping in the car appeals to me. I have a brilliantly compact and comfortable “Mammut” high quality inflatable mattress and the back of the car is long and spacious. The spot I’d chosen was very quiet and had a great view over the town but was only 200m walk from the centre. French towns like this really do want to attract tourists so the public conveniences in the centre of town were spotless and almost as good as in a hotel. There was a great open air swimming pool just below where I’d parked so that would be a definite destination after the race. There was even a small wall just behind the car so there was privacy as well. The bike frame and wheels spent the night in the front seat area – covered over – and I slept well, having avoided the big car parks that would be bustling as early as 6am with people arriving. I’d decided to simply make my own coffee and porridge in the morning, get everything ready with the bike progressively so there would be time to notice anything missing and use the public toilets last thing before going to the race start. Everything went perfectly. I even managed to get the bike vertically into the small toilet room! (not taking any risks!) – and the sun was on us by 7:45am as I arrived for the 7:55am “pre” start. This year I had bought a KMC chain that can be very easily removed and then cleaned properly in petrol. This meant there was no oil on the chain and moving the bike around in the car had been really easy when making space to sleep. The last thing I’d done prior to leaving the car for the race was to apply “ceramic wet” oil to the chain.

For physical preparation I’d done a really hard 90 minute session early in the previous week and then observed that in the following days I couldn’t find enough power to raise my heart rate. This was more or less anticipated so the day before the race I just rested and was expecting to be back to full power by the day of the race. This was correct. It doesn’t appear to matter whether an intense workout is 90 minutes or part of a 4 hour race – that intensity takes the same recovery time. This confirms that I need to do more high intensity work to raise my body’s tolerance. Last year I proved to myself that long rides at lower intensity do practically nothing for my fitness and just wear down the morale.

The Race

The start was behind the big “Maison des Sports” near the ice rink, across the river from the town. The finish would be there too. It was a relaxed start because the official start would be around 5 minutes later in the town itself. I placed myself near the back, thinking that with less that 500 people it would still be quite a tight start – but that was wrong! The start was like a city traffic jam with an accordion effect and everyone spread out over a long stretch. This isn’t really cool because there was no electronic start measurement. They appear to have given everyone the same start time. I started my own timer when I went past the town centre because there was nothing to indicate the “real start”. Sloppy stuff! However, this is my only gripe of the whole day and it’s pretty insignificant – the rest of it was great and I’ve nothing but praise for the organisation – it was excellent.

The advantage of starting near the back is that you then have the morale booster of overtaking others instead of the inverse. A major part of my plan for the day was to try to race while only breathing through the nose. This was particularly important at the start because it was straight into a climb up the Col de la Croix Fry and there was serious risk of red-lining all the way up the climb which would be a cast iron guarantee of a nightmare finish several hours later. What I didn’t know was whether or not I could sustain a competitive pace while nasal breathing. The phenomenal thing about nasal breathing is that you can feel how it forces you to breathe abdominally and therefore much more efficiently. My goal was to stay aerobic, maximise efficiency and to avoid going anaerobic and building up metabolites. I could perhaps afford to go anaerobic towards the end but not at the start.

The other concern was that my bum bones had been sore since the Time Mégève and my saddle is really hard so I was hoping that for this marathon event things had settled down a bit. I could have used a softer version of the same saddle which was at home – but as with the other training effects I was counting on the body adapting in time for this event. At worst there was only mild discomfort constantly through the race.

My water bottles had Isotonic, high carb mixtures – one lime and the other orange and in the right rear pocket there was the entire contents of a box of almond bars with added vitamins and minerals to aid digestion. This is about the only thing I’ve found edible when exercising – and I just hate the sticky mess that gels create when you replace the opened packet or tube back in your pocket. I also had four packets of electrolyte high carb powder (one with added protein) to add to water refills because I know now that drinking plain water is a disaster for the stomach and causes bloating – not just for me but for anyone.  I aimed to eat an almond bar after each climb so as to get the blood sugar back up during the descent and ready for the next challenge. It would be generally a hot sunny day so disciplined drinking would be necessary too and it was not a day to wait until thirst set in. Another advantage of nasal breathing is that is seriously reduces dehydration and I could really feel this advantage during the first 4 hours.

Le Col de la Croix Fry

Climbing the Col de la Croix Fry my heart rate was steady at around 158 bpm. I hadn’t been sure that I could maintain even this level while nasal breathing but it presented no problem. If I’d been breathing through the mouth I’d have let the heart rate climb to near 170 bpm for the whole climb so this was definitely a success for disciplining the effort levels. Most surprising was that I had the fitness to hold my own with those around me on the climb despite remaining in the aerobic performance zone the whole way. I’d been worried about just getting dumped and having to abandon the nasal breathing quite rapidly. Graeme Obree recently published his “training manual” outlining his personal approach to his world records and hour record. Although this was in the nineties and he was largely working things out for himself I was amazed to discover that he had incorporated nasal breathing. His own breathing technique involved inhaling by the nose with the nostrils flared and simultaneously through the mouth but with the tongue pressed up against the palate to force the air to be warmed before going into the lungs. He then did one big abdominal breath, followed by a half breath then a quarter breath – in a repetitive cycle. From studying Buteyko research it appears that exhaling through the nose is also important – the nose being the “breathing organ” – and perhaps the restriction on air intake imposed by pure nasal breathing achieves the same thing as the half and quarter breath. In any case I know that increasing air intake is not the answer – the fastest and surest way to run into oxygen debt and physical trouble is to over-breathe.

Going over the first col I felt really good and went into a fast descent. Descending on a bike is very much like skiing and I enjoy playing with the choice of line and focusing on technique. Currently I’m finding that security is best on longish very high speed turns if the body is shifted to the inside of the turn, but on fast very tight bends the bike has to be inclined into the turn with the body on the outside and all the weight on the outside pedal. Different techniques for different turns – very much like skiing. Generally I find that when the descents get really twisty I catch up rapidly with people in front. I don’t pedal too hard on the straighter sections and just try to streamline the body because I know that I’ll catch people on the bends. Elliptical pedalling technique really helps however when pedalling with the upperbody flattened and low – because it stops the knees from coming up so high – the difference being very obvious. Today my timing worked out really well and when the plateau arrived at the bottom of the descent I landed right in the middle of a fast moving group. This timing was critical because at this point we were close to Annecy and there was a very long and undulating hike around the base of the mountains into the Chamonix valley. Being isolated on this section would be a disaster – especially with a really tight cut-off time at midday precisely at 90km. The challenge now was to stay with this peloton and continue the nasal breathing. We were going fast so absolutely no one was speaking and this is important when nasal breathing. You have to breath through the mouth when talking so I was happy with the silence. One earphone was plugged into my left ear for audio feedback from my telephone/sports tracking device. The great thing about this is that each kilometre I’d automatically hear data about distance, speed, heart rate – without having to look at or touch anything. This also saves battery power on the telephone as the screen doesn’t need to light up. My battery is a year old now so making it last a long race is getting harder. I have a new really heavy duty battery on order but it hasn’t arrived yet. Near the start of the plateau we went past an isolated girl (Sian Mcloughlin No 259) who was moving quite slowly but she responded wisely and latched onto the train. I had no intention of working at the front and there was no pressure to do so – the peloton didn’t become seriously structured due to the undulating terrain so there was no problem. Carrying good speed the peloton grew as we picked up other isolated individuals along the way. The end of the main plateau is very clear because it is when you suddenly arrive at a steep short climb where you are forced to drop down 19 gears from top gear to bottom gear. I’d managed to maintain the nasal breathing the whole time despite being stretched to the limit at points keeping up with the group. It would have been easy to stay with them by allowing myself to breathe through the mouth, but I’d have probably gone anaerobic. It was a real challenge tokeep the breathing disciplined and stay with the group. Something else however would interfere. Changing gear at the top of the climb back onto the large chainring I managed to drop the chain. This is a problem with managing the Osymetric chainring and I’m still learning how to avoid this. I should have just stopped on the descent there and then but sometimes when you turn the cranks the chain can flip back on so I tried that, but at the start of the next climb I had to get off and sort out the chain. Bye Bye peloton! The real plateau was over now anyway so I wasn’t too concerned.

Le Col d’Evires

We had reached the start of the climb up to the Col d’ Evires. One other member of the old peloton had somehow been held up with a similar problem because although he was stronger than the others he had somehow managed to get behind and I was surprised when he appeared from behind. I held onto his wheel for a while but felt it was pushing me more than I wanted so I let him go. Eventually I spotted Sian ahead on her own and having been dropped by the others she had slowed down a lot. Surprisingly she managed to catch on to me as I overtook and despite climbing at a good pace she managed to hang on. When we arrived a the final part of the climb up to the col I decided to be social – nobody had spoken a work to anyone so far today – and removed my earphone so as to hear clearly. We started talking in French only to realise that we were both British – then it turned out that she lives in Tessans – the village 4km up the road from my home and which I pass every time I ride up to Granier. Small world! Unfortunately she was starting to run pout of steam at this point and so I left her before the end of the climb. I had sacrificed a period of nasal breathing but was more than happy to be social instead. There was a refreshment stand at the top and would be her only one as she would soon bifurcate onto the short course missing out the three big cols ahead  - but I didn’t need to stop yet as I still had plenty of water and almond bars. I also knew there were two more refreshment stops – one at the top of each of the next two cols – or just one if I didn’t make it to the next bifurcation in time. To be honest I didn’t have much hope of getting there in time, but pushed on hard just with the hope that it was still possible. Sian continued on the short course and came 1st in her category and 3rd female overall.

Le Col de Mont Saxxonex

Arriving at the first bifurcation it was an easy decision to head off in the direction of the medium and long courses, except that there was only one other rider in sight. Number “3” had eased off to eat a little and was probably also affected by finding himself totally isolated. I overtook him and soon realised that he’d hitched a lift. When people do that you can be sure that they are even more tired than you are. He stayed behind me over the entire plateau. When we got to the climb up to Mont Saxonnex I heard my back brake rubbing against the wheel rim. The wheel must have pulled over slightly and there was no way I wanted to start the next climb with brakes rubbing so I had to pull over and dismount to straighten the wheel. To my surprise I had a peloton of about half a dozen attached to me and had to watch them all disappear as they attacked the climb ahead of me. The climb was vicious – very steep and relentless. I managed to retain the nasal breathing and very slowly but surely started to reel in the guys ahead. By the top of the climb I was gaining in strength and some of the others were clearly waning – including number 3 – so I overtook them quite strongly. Unfortunately at this point the nasal breathing was starting to become difficult to maintain and on the last part of the climb I reverted to mouth breathing. Once over the col I was able to recover the nasal breathing. It’s actually really hard to get back to nasal breathing once you stop. There was now only a descent between me and the final bifurcation and I knew it was very close to the cut-off time but I didn’t even look at the time and just pressed on instead. Arriving at the bifurcation it was still clearly open and it was exhilarating to arrive there in time. I was really happy to make it but at the same time realised that by taking the long route it was like opening the gates of hell. Checking my clock I had made it with only 4 minutes to spare – which meant that I might even be the last one through and so would be in a classic battle to avoid last place. I love those battles – they are every bit as stimulating as trying to win something. The next plateau was a solo time trial with no one at all in sight either ahead or behind. I’d already switched my music on because I knew that I was working on my own now – which always happens when there is such a small field. Music helps to combat pain and isolation.

Le Col de Romme

The next climb would be to Le Col de Romme. If I had any illusions that is would be easier than the Saxonnex they were immediately shattered. At the end of the plateau, straight ahead, the road bent straight up like a vertical wall. I actually burst out laughing when I saw it. My expectations were not deceived. About ten strokes of the pedals into the climb and I had to dismount the bike with my entire left leg going into severe spasm with cramp. The spasm was centred more to the inside of the upper leg – which is amazing because it wasn’t the small quads above the knee which are normally hit by this sort of thing. I’d focussed on pedalling technique the entire way and so was using the bigger muscles further up the leg and the good alignment was soliciting the muscles on the inside of the leg. This is great because those muscles are so important is skiing so it’s great that they are being used properly in cycling – but even those big muscles have their limits. I probably only spent between about 1 and 2 minutes getting through the spasm and then set off again. Standing up on the pedals and getting the body forwards allowed me to use the hip extensors (glutes) and relax the thighs to give the spasms a proper chance to fade away. The right leg also had some minor spasm but didn’t completely lock up as the left leg had done. The legs recovered rapidly but when seated I focussed on pulling instead of pushing for a while just to change the muscle use. Once the climbing was established the legs went back to normal and this didn’t happen again. Looking behind I could see what looked like the red top of number 3 again – so I knew that currently I wasn’t last and that he was definitely flagging. The cramp attack had affected my confidence but soon I was back up to speed. One achievement of the day was that even with stops like this and two stops to fill water bottles there was never a kilometre that went up to 8 minutes. The slowest kilometre was on a really steep section where it went up to 7’50”. When it starts to go over 8 minutes then the game is pretty much over. The climb was very hard both physically and mentally. Adding to the challenge were the rough road surface, a strong headwind from the West, searing heat when sheltered and the relentless steepness of the glaciated valley wall. Knowing there was someone behind pushed me on, then as the valley opened up near the top I glimpsed the white top of another rider perhaps a kilometre ahead. There had been moments when I’d even wondered if I was lost because there were no road markers or any trace of a race. At the top of this col was the first electronic control point I’d seen all day. There must have been one on each individual course. Shortly after the control point there was the final refreshment stand. There were four other riders lingering there so I did a Formula One move to overtake them in the pits. My last powder went into another water refill (previously refilled both tanks at Mont Saxonnex) – but I spent only a minute on the refills. Two of the riders set off before me and being rested they were able to attack the descent better and leave me behind. This meant that I now had at least three people firmly tucked behind me and the buffer between me and the Voiture Ballai (Sweeper up van) was growing.  The last official  transport I’d seen was before the final bifurcation when an ambulance overtook on the Mont Saxonnex and gave me the thumbs up signal to check if everything was OK.

Le Col de La Columbière

Joining the Col de la Columbière was a bit of a relief. Not only was this the final climb but being a main road the running surface was smooth and it was relatively sheltered from the West wind. At this point I found that I wasn’t strong enough to use the second gear properly and had to use first gear – which was a bit frustrating. The jump from a 25T to a 28T sprocket was just a bit too much. I’d have liked a gear between the two so as to avoid losing too much speed. Ultimately I had to use to lower gear because for some time now it had become impossible to coordinate the nasal breathing and it was becoming a fight for survival. I focussed of pedalling technique – to optimise the mechanics and keep a good rhythm. When I could manage some nasal breathing I’d do it for a while. It feels good to get the air deep down into the lungs like this – but it’s a learned discipline that’s easy to forget under stress. I knew that the last several kilometres of the Columbière were steep and hard and so I needed to conserve some energy for that without losing time. Shortly after the start of the climb the two who had set off before me from the previous refreshment point were located standing at the roadside in the shade of some trees. I’ve no idea what they were doing – whether it was a technical issue or physical – but it felt good adding them to my buffer zone!  The steep section soon loomed up in front and now I could start to put some power into using the first gear. My heart rate climbed back up to 155bpm and with it being the final climb there was no worry about breathing and metabolites. Around practically every bend I was surprised to come across another cyclist almost falling off his bike! The Columbière was destroying them. In contrast my strategy had paid off and I was able to work harder, picking them off one by one, the last one being only a few hundred metres from the summit. I wasn’t sure how many had done the long course because the middle course also went over this col – but one I spoke to afterwards had come over the Col de Romme and the Columbière had finished him off. This meant that my buffer zone was a least 6 deep and I hadn’t even seen the highly anticipated Voiture Balai.

The Finish

Descending was predictably tentative at the start after such an effort but there was still 13km to go to the finish and although I’d accelerated past the others at the summit I knew there would soon be a challenge. It took about half the descent to fully recover and then I spotted one of the guys closing in on me. About the same time my telephone battery started to warn me that it was running out. The pressure was now on to get as fast as possible to the finish. I felt good now so flattened my body and used elliptical pedalling to accelerate on the straights. Although my head was slightly fuzzy from lactic acid I was still properly lucid and able to apply good cornering technique and tactics. The finish at Le Grand Bornand is slightly confusing because they direct you with arrows back out on the route that you started off on in the morning. This is slightly disconcerting because you worry in case you missed something and are now starting the entire thing all over again! In addition it leaves you with a 1.7km climb back to the finish line. My legs were good after the descent and I attacked the final stretch all the way, finishing 30 seconds ahead of the guy chasing me.


No surprises here – especially given my fitness. I was just amazed at being able to enjoy the entire thing and finishing strongly after 6hrs 34 mins (official time). I fact I don’t think I’ve ever finished any race of any length feeling so good. There are some very important lessons in this exercise today. My placing was 158th out of 169 finishers - with the last being over 1hr 15mins behind. Remember there was a severe cut off time and not many would have made it after me onto the course. In age category I was 28th out of 31 – which shows that fitness is the main limiting factor – not age. I also think that some cheated at the end and cut out the loop around the town - so three people got ahead of me at the end who should have been behind - though they could easily have done this by mistake. Very annoying when you are already so far down the results table! The overall winner was from my ASC Macot La Plagne club - 2hrs 18mins ahead of me!!!!!!! - and the kid who won the short course averaged an unbelievable 38.26 km/hr.

I hope that ASC Macot La Plagne are pleased to know that they were represented at both ends of the results table.

Aprés Race

I was in time to change clothing, pack the bike safely in the car and get to lunch prior to the prize giving. The lunch was excellent quality with plenty of protein – but I couldn’t eat much. My stomach had been hurting along with everything else on the final climb. Leaving the sports hall I was clearly too tired to drive and felt like doing nothing. Instead I collected my swimming gear and headed off to the pool. It was fantastic to get into the water and be weightless! After drying myself I laid out on a towel in the sun and closed my eyes to rest properly. This rest and the small amount of food ingested earlier did their trick and I recovered very well. Leaving the pool Chris Harrop called to find out how it had gone and I was in good spirits to tell him about it. He had covered about 3000m climbing over the final section of the Etape route the day before and concluded the same as me that the Col du Glandon will destroy people. After another coffee stop I headed off home feeling relaxed and refreshed. My legs were very tired and I could feel them during the night but nothing severe. It’s ultra clear to me now that strategy and skill are everything in long races and they must be adapted to suit fitness levels. You don’t have to be ultra fit to make it work and still really enjoy it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Le Grand Bornand (prelude)

I'm at Le Grand Bornand ready for the race tomorrow (Sunday) morning. It's going to be hard! It finishes with the Col de la Columbière - 3500m climbing over 148km. I'll try not to bail out on a shorter course! There's only between 300 and 400 participating over three courses - so I have a good chance of being last on the big course. It's one of those races that only attracts nutters so if I ride slowly then I'm on my own! If I ride fast I'll explode and still be on my own. I'm taking my earphones to listen to music - nature's pain killer!
I will be wearing  “Macot La Plagne” colours tomorrow like the guy on the front left  - but won’t be quite so skinny or fast.
I'm going to sleep in the car tonight. Have located the public toilets so don't have to use a potty! There's a boulangerie open from 7 am so I can have an extra coffee. I'm planning on cooking porridge in the morning but might just go for a pain au raisin instead - a bit like someone going to an execution would choose his favourite "last meal". 
Went out on my bike yesterday and still had nothing in my legs after Wednesday's powerful workout. It seems to be the anaerobic excesses that knock me out for days - not the basic endurance workouts. I've done both my rides since Wednesday with nasal breathing so as to avoid metabolites and help with recovery. I think I'll be okay for tomorrow morning. I'd like to use nasal breathing in the race but I'm concerned that I'll find myself left at the starting gate if I do that. Either way I'm doomed before the end of it! 
I've been using the tiny Zefal "Air Control" CO2 valves for some time now and already lost two of them on the road due to not having them properly secured. Last time I bought two - one as a spare and the other kept on the bike on a CO2 bottle. Today I realised that I've lost the spare despite never having used it! These things are eminently loseable! I had to pop into a bike shop and buy another - this time one with the tiny red plastic collar that keeps the bottle from being punctured. I'd not have bothered but I was suspicious that I might have broken off the internal piercing mechanism in the one on the bike and needed another to look at to verify this (it was fine). Stopping for fuel and organic bananas plus an Air Control valve left me with a race to get to Le Grand Bornand with 10 minutes to spare to collect my dossard - meaning I don't have to get up so early in the morning and do it then. This is a really nice place here - already busy with holiday makers.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pedalling Skill

First positive signs in training – both my appetite and strength have returned. The weather had been bad with heavy rain so I eventually went out for a short but hard ride in the evening when things had cleared up a bit. I read that Bradley Wiggins is favourite for the Tour De France and is currently tapering his training back in preparation for the start at the end of June – to five and a half hours per day!  For me “tapering” means staying off my bike for two days or more!

Technique – pedalling skill

This was the first time this year I felt strong enough to tackle my main training circuit while staying on the large chainring. Perhaps that’s because due to it being oval (dual cambered in fact) the “push” phase is equivalent to a 54T chainring and that is significantly more than a standard compact 50T. Using oval rings is supposed to train the appropriate muscles and perhaps this has simply taken some time. Watching Wiggins and the Sky team climbing the mythic Joux Plane during the Criterium du Dauphiné a few weeks ago and completely dominating it – all with oval chainrings – was really impressive. People are naturally accusing him of peaking too early – but he says that the team won all those races at only 96% to 97% capacity – and he has trained to peak in July. Goodness only knows how they can work out things so precisely. I’m currently at 37.4%.

Using the big chainring in climbing gave me the opportunity to feel the body mechanics more clearly. If something is misaligned then you either lose power quickly or something will hurt – either the knee or something muscular. Combining ankling with chi technique (hip/spine movement) seems to allow all of the leg muscles to be coordinated right down to the calf – reducing the specific loading on any particular one. The strange thing about this is it gives a distinct sensation of eliminating the circular path of the foot following the pedal. It feels like the legs are just pumping up and down and the circular path of the pedal is just accommodating the natural path of the foot. This means that it’s easier to focus on coordinating the leg extension to get the hip, ankle and contraction of all the muscles better optimised. Ironically, to pedal in a smooth circular path you have to completely avoid pedalling in a circle and get all the legs parts working so that they appear all together to feel like an out/in or up/down movement only. One other unexpected outcome from this is that due to the ankle being extended, the saddle high and placed behind the bottom bracket – the bottom of the extension is slightly forwards of “bottom dead centre” and so the “pulling back” of the pedal – described by some as “scraping muck of your shoe” – happens to you – naturally. In skiing I’ve always said that one sure sign of something being right is when due to external physical constraints it actually starts “happening to you” instead of you trying to do it.

In skilful running, when the legs are used naturally, it’s like the leg extends downwards directly below the body – with the foot making contact below the centre of mass (not in front of it). The stride lengthens behind the body as the leg extends and the hip moves backwards. The foot then lifts up high and the knee is pulled forwards as the hip flexors contract. The path taken by the foot behind the body feels like a small circle – though it is probably oval (it goes further forwards than upwards). If you stand up on the pedals and move the body forwards  close to the handlebars you can feel exactly the same movement pattern when using both ankling and chi technique. You can feel this better this way because you are standing and the feet come up behind the body. As in running you don’t try to make circles with your feet – but they happen to you when everything else is right. Danny Dreyer in ChiRunning suggests that when running it helps to become aware of this small circle behind the body to develop the “picking up” of the feet – and to visualise it. The encouraging thing here is that efficient cycling seems to develop exactly the same skills as efficient running.

Despite pushing big gears at close to max heart rate I felt absolutely no back trouble and only a very slight stress on the knee if I didn’t coordinate correctly. Considering I’ve had lower back surgery 3 times and have a left  knee that was violently torn internally when a ski binding didn’t release in a fall – for which I refused surgery – this is all pretty good news. Sometimes those weaknesses end up making us stronger – because we can no longer function through mindless brute force and accompanying bad mechanics.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Col de la Croix de Fer

Slowly my body is readjusting to the demands of hard cycling and lessons are being learned. Yesterday I drove to the Maurienne valley and cycled up the Col du Glandon towards Alpe d'Huez. Before anything else I must say that the scenery here is stunning. It’s incredibly wild and big but also classic “Apline” in nature. Only when you get above the tree line at around 1800m does it start to become desolate. This is part of the route of the forthcoming Etape du Tour and I wanted to familiarise myself with this part of the route. I know the Col de la Madeleine very well but had only ever climbed the Col du Glandon from the other side and saw nothing on the descent on this side due to being focused on survival . The climb is about 20km and joins up directly to the 2.5km climb to the Col de la Croix de Fer. The first 14km stretch is easy with no steep gradients but from 6km to the Glandon it steepens and I was quickly looking for the granny gear. I suspect that at this point many people will start to have a bad day on the Etape – especially as they have already climbed the 25km long Madeleine and probably pushed too hard with all of the excitement. The last three kilometres to the Glandon are particularly hard as the road winds up a steep wall. Fortunately the following climb to the Col de la Croix de Fer  is easy. When I got to the Glandon I looked over towards Bourg d’Oisans and saw rain falling about 20km away – but the sky was clear elsewhere. It only took 13 minutes to the to the Croix de Fer but the storm hit out of nowhere the moment I arrived. It had suddenly gone dangerously black – whcih at 2000m altitude on a carbon bike is not comforting. The weather looked even worse ahead and the winds were violent so this left no choice but to immediately backtrack all the way down to St Etiennes de Cuines where I started.  I’d wanted to do the complete final section of the Etape, with a couple more climbs including the big one to La Toussuire  - but that will have to be another day. It poured down on the descent for most of the way but once down that first 3km from the Col du Glandon the wind wasn’t an issue. My Sony Xperia phone was mounted on the handlebars as my sports tracking device and I discovered that it can survive a deluge with no protection – at least for half an hour! This is amazing technology! I managed to get back down to a warm lower altitude before becoming too chilled and then when I turned around at looked back up from the bottom there were no clouds. Very weird weather!




The recent experience at Time Mégève made it clear that metabolites are a major limiting factor in my performance and can leave me struggling to recover for days. With this in mind my main objective was to work on aerobic efficiency. Metabolites are a problem caused by crossing the lactic acid threshold and working too anaerobically. It’s hard to avoid this when you push hard but when you are fairly certain of drastic consequences then it might be more prudent to pace things accordingly. The entire workout was done with only nasal breathing. If you oblige yourself to breathe exclusively through the nose you will not go anaerobic for very long because you feel like you are going to suffocate. This is an automatic way of keeping yourself in the aerobic zone. There are of course all of the physical advantages of nasal breathing on top of this – all leading to better oxygenation of the tissues and brain and enhanced aerobic performance with consequently less lactic acid production. I’m planning on racing next Sunday and because it’s an endurance climbing race I’ll  oblige myself to nasal breathe and not allow the peloton to completely dictate my effort levels. There is always another peloton somewhere behind and I’m happy to wait for it and try to finish the race strongly instead of completely destroyed and everyone overtaking me anyway. If I can avoid coming in last then the nasal breathing will have been a success.


This is where things get interesting. I’d recently spotted in an old triathlon training book written by Iron Man champion Dave Scott that “elliptical” pedalling is generally more suitable for triathletes than “round” pedalling. I’d probably have not even spotted this before but as I now have dualcam (almost elliptical) chainrings then it caught my attention. It was also his description of “ankling” that caught my attention and the list of benefits – including a more streamlined upper body. Ankling is where the ankle is bent at the top of the pedal stroke and then extended though the push phase until at a max of around 120° to the leg at the bottom of the stroke. It’s obvious why the bent ankle at the top of the stroke will permit a flatter upper body – because the knee won’t come up so high. What isn’t mentioned is that the extended ankle at the bottom of the stroke also allows a higher saddle position and this contributes a lot to extra clearance between the ribs and the knee – and a better capacity to pull back up on the pedal. Another benefit is that starting the stroke from a bent ankle and extending it causes a reflexive active use of the calf muscle during the push and so helps to prevent isolating and overloading the quads. Many people have the saddle too low and actually allow the ankle to bend during the push – wasting energy and completely preventing the calf muscle from contributing – in fact probably causing it to work against them as the calf lengthens with an eccentric contraction during the push – instead of shortening with a normal contraction.

Combining ankling with chi-cycling technique – pulling the hip backwards during the push – appears to create another mechanical benefit. The ChiCycling technique aligns the bones laterally much better for the push but it also allows the entire push to be made with a straighter leg – less angle at the hip and especially the knee – which  automatically creates more efficient leverage. Ankling increases this leverage effect.  In other words bend the ankle to get a straighter leg to start the push with more efficient leverage. During the push extend the ankle to add the use of the calf though this most effective range of leverage. The elliptical path of the ankle is now flat at the top and bottom of the stroke – limiting up/down movement to the most effective range. The Osymmetric and Rotor Q-ring shaped chainrings are the same shape as this – with the short axis always in sync with the top and bottom of the stroke. Analysis has shown this to be the most efficient mechanics – even without altering pedalling technique. When you do this standing up on the pedals the first thing you notice is that the body stops bobbing up and down with all of the power going into the pedals instead. The feeling is remarkably like ChiRunning – with the body still and the feet being lifted up behind. Interestingly Danny Dreyer describes ChiRunning as resembling pedalling a small bicycle – lifting up the feet behind you. One thing you feel when seated is that the ChiCycling motion of the hip and spine become more subtle because the leg motion is effectively reduced in length. My question now is whether this is the most efficient way to pedal or is it better to get shorter cranks – or perhaps both. Shorter cranks would allow many of the same benefits and I believe that even Lance Armstrong is using them in triathlon where an aero position is required over very long distances. Other than modifying existing cranks by drilling new holes for the pedals there only seems to be one product on the market (Powercranks) which is way too expensive – so I’ll stick to modifying technique for the moment. It does seem ludicrous that there is only a very small range of crank lengths available on the market when you consider the vast range in leg lengths and even feet sizes. The point is that the crank is only one lever in a whole system of levers including the entire gearing system, the body itself and the bike geometry. The most important thing about the crank is that it is the right length so that it allows the levers of the body to work properly. The next benefit you feel from ankling is that you can manage a higher cadence – because the leg stroke is shorter. I found that I can be pedalling along during a climb then if I start to use ankling in this way I’m suddenly pedalling with a higher cadence and disturbingly greater ease – but without changing gear. The mind and body react strangely negatively to this apparent loss of “connection” and “effort” and try to get me back to my usual inefficient habits where I feel comfortable through forcing. The key here is exactly the same as in ChiRunning – that we have to consciously look for relaxation – because unconsciously we appear to tune into brute force and tension. Normally when pedalling fast at around 70 kph downhill I start to bounce and find this very annoying. I need to experiment now and see if ankling can stop this through more efficient leg mechanics. Perhaps this is what will help to make the decision over crank length.

Friday, June 15, 2012

176 Crown Street–Top Flat Left

Property of Ian Beveridge, 188 Route de Villaroland, 73210 Aime, France:, +33608627940

Managed by: JFK Property Management  Ltd.

June 2012 Update

The apartment became vacant for the first time in several years at the beginning of December 2011 – unfortunately the timing was bad being just at the start of a heavy program of winter work so I was not free until the following May to visit the apartment. The apartment failed to be let out again even at a low rate but the property management assured me that there was no need for me to return to Aberdeen to sort it out. With the place still empty in May 2012 the opportunity came to return to Aberdeen to carry out any necessary work. A work period estimated to be one week ended up being three weeks and the place was a shocking mess – explaining totally why it could not be rented out. JFK Property Management is not totally to blame – because they took over the apartment in the middle of a tenancy and had no clear idea of the initial state and inventory – though despite several consecutive tenancies no inventory or control was ever carried out.  JFK Property management do however need to improve significantly in terms of maintaining standards of hygiene and cleanliness. The only consolation is that legal firms operating as letting agencies are generally far worse, less intelligent and far less responsible.  Both Aberdeen Considine and Ledingham Chalmers are criminally bad – but what lawyers aren’t? The worst period so far was when my rent was not transferred to me from JFK for an extended period of 18 months. Invoicing is generally irregular and unprofessional – but some of the most important issues that can be handled by a middle-man operation seem to be covered relatively well. For all of the above reasons and more the details of the apartment will now be kept updated online and a direct line of communication between the occupants and myself will be necessary in future. The apartment will not be permitted to degenerate in such an uncontrolled manner in the future – no more finding the place filthy, beds sawn in two, mattresses filling the attic, unauthorised subletting, objects broken and stolen and vital aspects of the apartment permitted to become dysfunctional. There will be a guide here to help with the running of the flat and an online inventory demonstrating a correct level of cleanliness and the general condition.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is generally where the most attention to hygiene is required – but where the least is exercised. Some of the photos on this page show the horrendous state of the kitchen discovered recently.


The cooker (unbelievably) is new and has only been used by the last occupants. They occupants actually illegally attempted to withhold rent to ransom me into replacing the old cooker due to the oven not being completely reliable. I was repaid by finding the new cooker in a total mess – having to clean the oven with a chisel. The worst part is that JFK should have spotted this and not returned the deposit until cleaning charges were deducted. If I were to bill JFK for the 11 hours of scrubbing needed to clean the cooker and surrounds it would cost them almost the equivalent of a new cooker! Next time that will be done.



The cooker has mostly been returned to it’s original condition but I ran out of time with the oven. There is still some caked residue in the oven that can only be removed with more time and hard work – however it is fairly minimal. All the residue that could be removed in reasonable time with hand scouring has gone. The best way to clean all the interior aspects of the cooker is with using stainless steel souring pads and elbow grease. Chemicals don’t work.



When pulling out the cooker to clean around it be careful not to pull hard on the short gas connection. There is a safety chain but it was attached to the the cupboards and when I discovered this had been added it was by almost pulling the cupboards off the wall – so it is left disconnected. Just a little care permits the floor coverings to be protected too during this manipulation. There are side plates at the rear of the cooker which make returning the cooker into the space slightly tricky – but with attention it is not difficult. I’d recommend cleaning around the cooker once every few months to keep the kitchen fresh.

The front panel of the cooker can’t be scoured with stainless steel pads because it removes the paint indicating the gas control levels. – but this part is not exposed to high temperatures so can be cleaned normally with detergent.

Extractor Unit

The extractor unit above the cooker works with a filter and does not send the air out of the building – so the filter needs to be changed frequently. Failure to do so generates a foul, smelly mess. JFK Property Management permitted the previous occupants to leave this is a totally horrific state. Next time JFK will be billed if this happens. The occupants were clearly unconscious of their own extremely low level of hygiene – and JFK was no better. The extractor currently has a new expensive charcoal activated filter which should give good service for about six months of regular use. There is a spare cheap basic filter stored beneath the sink. I left that there about seven years ago and nobody used it – that’s how filthy people unfortunately are.



The extractor unit had to be dismantled internally to clean because the fan mechanism was dripping with fat. The level of negligence here defies belief in this day and age. I’d expect to see this perhaps from severely mentally retarded people or junkies – but otherwise it’s just pure ignorance. The cleaned and repaired extractor is seen below…


The screw-in light bulbs in the extractor unit have been replaced. New ones can be bought inexpensively at B&Q at the Bridge of Dee. One of the external plastic light covers has been damaged – but this unfortunately cannot be replaced. The retracting glass at the front had a broken clip so that it would just hang loose and this has been repaired. The switches for controlling the unit seem to be on their last legs but still work okay. It is easy to open the unit, clean and change the filter or bulbs – by using the clips on the sides of the under-surface – so there is no good reason for allowing a build up of filth.


Dirt and grease accumulate especially on the flat cupboard surfaces above the cooker and on all the tops of cupboard doors. I sanded and re-varnished all the doors with a harder form of satin varnish so hopefully this will help with keeping them clean and protected. There was a bizarre amount of “scratching” of the wood around the knobs – where long nails apparently were biting into the wood every time a door was opened – so I ground down the worst of that to bring the wood back to a smoother – hence more easily cleaned surface. All the loose knobs were tightened and can easily be maintained by removing the screws that hold the cupboard drawer facing in place to access the screws holding the knobs.


Cleaning: Much of the grease had to be lifted using the stainless steel scourer pads – even from the cupboards – though it’s not necessary to use a great deal of pressure. Some of the drawer faces are not perfectly recovered due to the intricacies in design but they have been varnished again to make cleaning easier.


The light coloured slats at the base of all the cupboards were thick with grease stains. They pop off for easy cleaning!

Baskets and Gas Meter

The baskets beneath the sink also attract grease and although intricate the wiring does need to be cleaned. The lower basket tends to get a little bit broken due to it often being shoved up directly against the gas meter – but this is a known issue. Keep the slightly damaged basket at that level so that the other ones don’t suffer the same way. The gas meter and emergency shut-off valve are behind the baskets – which is partly why the baskets are there to permit easy access.

Airing Cupboard / Central Heating Control / Hot water

There is an airing cupboard above the hot water tank - it can be useful for drying small clothing items in the winter. This slats are not fixed to permit access to the tank so be careful to avoid losing stuff down between them – there is access below from the sink unit but it’s a bit awkward. There is a thermostat control for the hot water here linked to the central heating plus a shut off valve for the central heating water – if draining a radiator for any reason etc. – and the central heating pump is in the background. The reservoir for the central heating is up above in the attic, along with the gas boiler.  In the drawer next to the cooker there are a couple of wing type bleed keys for removing air from the radiators. There is also a separate immersion heater in the tank so water can be heated with the central heating switched off. I’m a bit uncertain at the moment which switches control which system so that should be verified with JFK.


The wall switch on the left is the light above the sink, the electronic central heating timer is next. The third switch from the left is the power to control the central heating and the fourth switch (to the inside) should be for the electric immersion heater built into the hot water tank – but I think this may have been changed and that might now be the switch under the sink unit  pictured third on the right above ( also this now possibly disconnected switch may be upside down!). Check with JFK if necessary. The small box beneath the others is a fixed telephone connection. Note that the hot water tank is warmed by both the central heating (Gas) and immersion heater (electricity) – though most of the time the immersion heater can be left off. The shower unit has it’s own independent water heater. There is a complete drainage vent for the central heating and it is beneath the floorboards in the middle of the interior hallway right next to the front door. For this reason the boards are held in place with screws – so they can be easily removed. There should be a copy of the operation manual for the Danfoss Set 1E Central heating control system in the drawer beneath it between the sink and the cooker.

Washing Machine (Garden)

The garden behind the building is shared and clothing can be hung out to dry – but it’s a bit of a climb up and down stairs. For any questions regarding the garden ask Alistair Johnstone on the ground floor – he is very helpful and takes good care of the basement and garden. You can even ask him about planting in part of the garden if so desired. I have asked JFK not to send anyone in the context of “gardener” because the previous one simply destroyed everything with weed killer and created an almighty mess according to Alistair – who I have no reason to doubt.

To keep things simple the washing machine is also a dryer  - but this is an expensive solution to drying so it should be used sparingly. The machine is now very old (27 years) but also very reliable – so please continue to take good care of it. The external door opens by gently PUSHING it! The latch has been broken several times by people trying to forcefully pull it open. The external cover is missing for the washing powder compartment and the control selection display is kept in a drawer beside the cooker. New machines might be prettier but they certainly won’t be so reliable.  The washing machine is on the left and the door opens with a gentle push in the middle of the right hand side.

There is one setting for the washing machine that goes automatically on to drying – “G” on a half load. The dryer timer is set using the other knob closer to the centre of the machine. The complete online manual can be found here: Occasionally it is necessary to empty the drain filter on the bottom right of the front of the machine.

Work Tops and Sink

To protect the worktops I have left a strong cutting block and a glass cutting plate. The previous cutting block was larger and solid maple but it was stolen also with the cast iron pans. Because JFK Management never did any inventories through several different occupants it’s impossible to trace the thief – but this will not happen again.

If the fridge or freezer need to be taken out or replaced for any reason then it is necessary to remove the wood surrounding the worktop – which is screwed in place with the screw heads covered with screw on decorative caps. Once this is removed the end of the worktop nearest the window canbe lifted. There is a piece of wood on top of the freezer and another frame beside the washing machine to give support to the worktop and prevent it from sagging in the middle over time. The refrigerator has been changed twice in recent years and the last time it was not fitted correctly. Instead of using the screw feet to adjust height on both sides at the front some idiot stuffed linoleum cuttings beneath the left front foot to try to level it. In addition there was something left attached to the base of the door which stopped it from closing properly – all of this has now been corrected. If the washing machine needs to come out then the refrigerator needs to be removed first and then the washing machine pushed across towards the middle of the worktop – the wooden strut to the right of the machine being removed first. The worktop is firmly attached to the boards at the end and once the machine has been moved to the right the worktop can be unscrewed from the end boards if necessary.


The sink was a mess in May. The wood surrounding was impregnated with black mould and someone had made an ugly attempt to use white silicone mastic and nasty white plastic around the edges of the sink. I removed all of this – sanded, re-varnished and reassembled the wood and added a protective border of anodised aluminium around the edge of the sink that is easy to keep clean.


The chrome blank plug on the front of the sink covering the alternative tap hole was missing and water allowed to run through damaging the the structure below. The blanking plug has been replaced with a new one. Also the large filter plug in the central sink – which is used for catching vegetable bits when cleaning and peeling – was found in the airing cupboard and was filthy. A good scrub with a stainless steel scouring pad and it came up like new. It is used to catch bits of stuff that can cause blocked pipes!

Kitchen Lights

The lights mounted above the worktops are supposed to be spotlights but people have put a variety of different sort sorts of bulb in them and even though thy don’t look so good I’ve left them that way. The essential think is that they work. There is a central lamp over the kitchen table which needs to be cleaned from time to time as it collects dust and airborne grease. This lamp shade was filthy. Altogether there is this central light and there are lights above every work area – the cooker extractor unit having lights integrated. If the lights happen to trip their circuit breaker for any reason then they will all go out as they are all on the lighting circuit (except the cooker lights!). They can be reset at the electricity meter in the hall way above the entrance door.


Windows and Blinds

The windows open all the way around so that the outside faces inwards for cleaning. All the exteriors have been freshly treated for protection and the wind insulation seals have been checked or replaced as necessary. When cleaning the windows try to reseat by hand (very easy to do) any seals that come loose – it can prevent a draught and loss of heat when the winter winds pick up. The blinds are easy to operate and protect against the often blinding sun as it sets in the West each evening. Please avoid sticking tape or anything else around the borders of the windows to try to prevent draughts. This generally makes no difference in a building constructed in the 1800s and the windows are already very good quality. I had to spend a lot of time cleaning rotten old glue from the mahogany to get it back into shape.


Kitchen Walls

The kitchen walls are coated in wipe-able silk emulsion. They probably won’t survive a very intense scrubbing but certainly respond well to a sponge and detergent.

Seating and Kitchen Table

The kitchen table surface was an amazing mess. Goodness only knows what people have been doing on it because this only happened recently. I had to sand it back to the bare wood and re-varnish it. I also accurately levelled out the base so that the table sits horizontal on the sloping floor (yes, 1896 construction!) It’s made obvious that to keep the table level the grain of the wood and the cross of the base together point towards the window.


The seat around the window space and also been sanded down and varnished – it had suffered the same degenerative abuse.

Fridge, Freezer, Extras

I used to supply high quality cast iron pots and pans plus a full 24 piece dinner set and cutlery. They were all either stolen or broken so I’ve had to stop doing this. There is a set of brand new but relatively cheap stainless steel pans in the cupboard – they work very well but the handles get hot and need a glove or kitchen towel for handling. They will not survive being burned dry on a gas hob.

The fridge needs very little maintenance. On leaving the apartment (end of lease) it needs to be switched off and the door left open. The switches for all of the appliances are above the main worktop – the appliance switcher are on the right on the wall - in the same order as the appliances beneath the worktop.


The freezer needs to be defrosted occasionally to function efficiently and when leaving the apartment. There is risk of flooding from defrosting so it needs to be attended to and something placed to collect water at the base below the drainage point at the front dead centre. Despite the flat being vacated early December 2011 I found the freezer jam packed with ice and still running at the end of May 2012. Thanks for the electricity bill JFK Management Ltd! Does professionalism get better than this? Yes!

The doors on the freezer compartments are a bit weakened and damaged from people yanking them out against the ice build up – through never defrosting. Would people do this to their own property?

There are some electronic goods supplied – a toaster, electric kettle and microwave – but they are not part of the essential fixtures because they are always easily abused to the point of breakage or disappearance. I’m leaving them there but if they stop working or you don’t like them then you should supply your own. There is some cutlery and some remaining crockery and mugs plus a glass and steel coffee filter. 

Attic, Water Tank, Gas Boiler

The attic can be used to store non valuable stuff – but please don’t use it as a dump and don’t make it a fire hazard. The boiler has a permanent gas pilot flame. If you need to check the boiler (white box) then it’s quite difficult to balance the front panels on it. The catches have been broken by others – but it can be left off if necessary. My stored belongings for the flat are beneath the blue tarpaulin – including carpet pieces etc. The open door in the picture above is the access to the attic and a key is supplied. The previous occupants left the attic completely covered with junk so that is was difficult to even move. This included furniture from the flat which had been vandalised – the single bed having had one side sawed in half and then a piece of wood being used to join cover this with screw points protruding towards the mattress by about half a centimetre. The single mattress was dumped up here along with two one double one and it had to be thoroughly cleaned. All duvets, pillows, bedclothes, cushions, curtains, towels etc were found up here scattered around. Some were washed and recovered the rest binned. For this reason no bedding materials or towels are now furnished. The curtains may be changed if the originals are correctly stored in a safe place.


The door beside the attic is a small storage cupboard which is reserved for holding the tools and materials (paints etc.) necessary for working on the flat  - this is the only space I reserve privately for maintenance purposes – no personal material is kept there and it is a small space.

There is a brush in the attic beside my stored belongings for sweeping it and keeping it clean.

Please ensure the lights are switched off when leaving the attic – I believe the wall switch is upside down. There is a separate light fitted next to the boiler.

To the left of the boiler is the cold water tank. This has an overflow which has dripped from time to time and the ballcock may need to be bent downward to stop this. Alistair Johnstone on the ground floor usually sees the drip from the overflow pipe and warns about it – you can see the small overflow pipe at the junction between the two drainage pipes in the image below. The tank is loosely covered in insulation so make sure it is in place over the winter. Old metal tanks like this accumulate sediment which is found in the local water so you may find that when the hot water fills the bath it looks brown. If this happens then the tank should be flushed for the loose sediment at the bottom to be removed. This can be done by first closing off the water supply.


In the hall outside the flat there is a valve for completely turning off the water supply to the flat. To flush the water tank turn this off then simply empty the hot water by running the bath tap fully open. The sediment can be scooped out of the bottom of the tank then when the tank refills after opening the water supply let it run for a while with the bath tap open to continue to flush though. This gets the water clean. If this becomes a problem I will change the water tank sooner rather than later – apparently plastic tanks don’t appear to have this issue – but I’m not convinced because the issue is with the Aberdeen water supply. Perhaps the newer designs simply prevent sediment build up automatically by allowing a more complete drainage of the tank.

Outside Hall

There are three long life low wattage bulbs in the landing area outside the flat door. One has a switch in the interior and the other two are left on permanently. I just replaced all of the bulbs because none were working when I arrived – though the neighbour on the top floor should also take responsibility for this but never does. There is a door mat with “Top Floor Left” carved in the rubber beneath it. The large photograph in the hall belongs to me and surprisingly it has survived many years in this spot – one of the few things not to have ever been broken. There had been cracks and water damage from a leak in the roof which has been repaired - above the photograph and below the light. This has been filled in and re-painted to look tidy. The upper hall  - the part in blue and white was pained by me. Please do not allow anyone to change any of  this without my permission. The cleanliness of the upper level (top two stairways) is the responsibility of the top two flats – though nobody seems to bother with the filth these days and cleaners sent through JFK are worse than useless. Scrubbing the lino with detergent makes it clean. There is a mop and bucket in the small bedroom and a spare mop head beneath the sink – though this is better use in the kitchen and bathroom.



There were five problems with the bathroom – none of which JFK Property Management had notified me.

For reasons largely unknown to me the bathroom had been re-tiled - by request. I’d found the request to re-tile strange as the tiles had previously been fine and the grouting maintained correctly. The new tiles are fine but previously there had been a glass shower door and it had vanished. JFK has completely failed to respond to me over this issue. No shower curtain or anything had been put up to replace this. I installed a pole and shower curtain that is machine washable. The curtain unclips at the top with large plastic clips. Compression on the pole is controlled by turning the fitting on the side nearest the shower unit. There is not a lot of force used to tighten the pole so as to protect the wall and tiles.

The shower head holder pole was mounted through the tiles and into the wall – but it was literally dangling loose because the rawlplugs had failed. This must have been evident during installation! I purchased a new support and used more appropriate plugs in the same holes. The shower head and hose are both replaced as the hose had been leaking at the joint. I forgot to collect photographs of this because it was the first job I did on returning to the flat and I was a bit shocked by the mess and amount of work needing to be done.

The overhead skylight was thick with green mould and had to be cleaned, sanded down and re-varnished and the surrounds painted. I purchased a new extendable pole to make manipulation of the window easier. Currently there is a very small air vent left open – which is the first click when pulling down on the handle. This can be completely closed by pushing upwards on the handle. The pole is stored in the corner behind the bathroom door.


The first image shows the current position of the window handle – slightly open for circulation. To open the skylight further you need to pull down on the right side of the handle. As the window tips downwards the hook will become trapped so once the window is properly opened it’s necessary to switch the hook to the left side of the handle to continue opening the window further. Closing is a simple push upwards on the metal handle. The extendable pole is light and long enough so that no chair or stepladder is needed.

The wood surrounding the bath was originally cut to slip into place above the linoleum. When the linoleum was replaced recently wood was placed beneath it to give a smooth surface making the flooring thicker. The workmen were too lazy to trim the pine slats so they cut the flooring short and simply bunged everything up with white silicone. Tradesmen get paid too much and do bad quality work. It’s not pretty but it works for the time being. Part of this issue is a box that surrounds the pipes coming from the toilet. It was lying in bits on the floor – impossible to put in place because it had never been adjusted either. I reconstructed this box and fitted it correctly. The box is needed because there is a valve there that requires access. I can’t quite remember but I think that the valve isolates and cuts off the kitchen water supply. The box is not fixed in position and can be lifted out. It’s constructed to slot in accurately and for all the gaps around the edges to be filled. Please note that there is no seal where the box meets the bath and the recessed shelve behind the taps so try not to let excessive water run down there.


The previous occupants installed a plug socket wired from the interior light above the sink. This had been done by twisting wires and using masking tape behind the wall light!!!! I have no idea how long this had been there for and was never informed. Worse still they had bored screws into the mirror frame to support the socket.


I realise that people might do this sort of thing due to the growing need to plug in devices in the bathroom so I reconnected with proper connections and a secure fitting for the sockets. The wiring is through the low power lighting circuit so it can’t be used for devices like a vacuum cleaner. There is no earth and I’m not even sure if that meets legal requirements so I may have it removed or disconnected – but it should be okay for small devices that have two pin plugs (with the appropriate adaptor) that normally use no earth anyway. If you use it then please use it with this in mind and only for running small devices – it is only active when the light is switched on. Once again I’m missing photographs here of the bathroom in its final state.

The bathroom floor mat was missing so a new one has been

Inner Hall

The inner hall connects all the rooms but needs very little maintenance. There was a colourful, durable and attractive rug in the centre of the hallway but that disappeared and had been replaced with very cheap ugly ones.  A new rug has been put in for both warmth and to brighten the hallway.


There is a door stop for the front door to limit the range of opening so that it doesn’t crash into the box for the electricity meter. The electricity meter box has a removable front panel which is held in place by both magnets and a wooden interior slat which forms a lip. Take care not to put the panel on upside down with only the magnets holding because it is easily knocked down – especially when the door stop is missing (it was missing when I returned and the panel landed on my head because it was upside down!). The floodlamp just inside the entrance has a new bulb. This bulb like all the others can be found at B&Q Bridge of Dee if it needs to be replaced. Please always replace with the correct bulb – they are not expensive – even for floodlights.


The small light shade is held on with bolts top and bottom so it’s a bit fiddly to access. This needs cleaning on the outside as it collects dust easily.

The electricity meter is left switched off when the flat is vacant (though JFK has failed to do this) and the mains switch needs to be activated to have power. If you use a chair from one of the bedrooms then be sure to stand near the edge of the chair as they are not designed for standing on – though I have reinforced them to hopefully cope with it. All of the chairs were either broken or with multiple loose parts when I returned – but they have all been repaired.

When I returned to Aberdeen it was to discover the door lock had been changed. In fact the original had been broken internally and the handle also broken (they were found beneath the sink). None of this information was passed on to me through JFK even though they had the correct keys. So arriving in Aberdeen after a tiring 2000km drive it was a bit annoying to be locked out. The front door key has never changed but the occupants are leaving the security door open for the post during the day – so be careful with house contents insurance, although there has never been theft in the building other than in the unattended basement area.

Avoid putting tape on the blue door paint as it can lift the paint when removed!


The basement is available for use though I don’t recommend storing anything valuable there. Place goods on the wooden beams and away from the walls to avoid dampness and seal in an airtight container to avoid rusting or iron or muskiness in paper. Use a padlock. The cellar is fourth from the left as you face the doors. Take a torch because there is no lighting in the cellar. I think originally it was designed for loading coal into from above for storage. In the house there are fire places and chimneys but they are all covered over.


Large Bedroom

The mattress is new and premium quality with “memory foam” and has no need to be turned. To help take care of it there is also a new high quality “Silent Night” anti allergic and waterproof and machine washable cover. The previous mattress had been installed by a friend not so long ago but it was clearly cheap rubbish and had to be thrown out. To get rid of any large objects, instead of dumping them in the attic, load them into a car or van and drive to Tullos Industrial Estate a few kilometres away where there are skips available for public disposal. The site is slightly tricky to find  - it is on the green arrow in the map below…

View Larger Map

My recommendation for bedding and towels is Pontons Homecare just around the corner on Union Street from the top of Crown Street. Opposite the Kentucky Fried Chicken – South side of the street. They have great deals. The headboard had been broken and the wooden slats were loose so this was secured and reinforced at the back. The fixings at all the angles were also tightened and secured. None of the pine needed to be re-varnished in this room but the table surface was marginal and I’d probably have done it given more time. The seat was broken in the middle due to people standing in the middle of it. I put reinforcement in but it’s recommended to stand close to the edges if used this way. The solid kitchen chairs can be stood on in the middle. The pillows have been thoroughly washed but you might be better with your own and just storing them.


The carpet has been cleaned. The skirting boards were remarkably dirty with a sticky residue and had to be properly cleaned.  The overhead light shade had migrated it’s way into the sitting room so it was brought back and cleaned before installing and a new wider ring added to hold the shade in place and accommodate the wider modern eco bulbs. The tulip painting was found in the attic and the Van Gough print seemed to have survived without trouble. The walls and ceiling needed some touching up but their condition was okay. One of the cupboard doors does not seem to be sliding properly freely but I didn’t have time to look into it. There was nothing obviously wrong with it though it used to slide better.

The previous occupants had a satellite dish installed just outside the window and annoyingly had several holes drilled through the mahogany frames and another through the wall into the sitting room. I would have refused this because I thought that they were having it installed for the sitting room and was not informed otherwise. They covered over the other holes with sticky tape which I removed. I’ll ask JFK Property Management to use some window putty to properly and cleanly fill the holes. I know nothing whatsoever about this satellite dish and what system it is, but the box with it is in the sitting room. There must have been a short connecting cable going through the wall – so I left the hole open in case it is needed again. I really don’t want any more holes bored anywhere.

Regarding the prints on the wall – if you don’t want to look at them then please store them at the back of the cupboards and not in the attic. Do not remove the prints from the frames and replace them with others – there has already been a lot of damage caused by irresponsible people doing this in a negligent way.


Small Bedroom

The small bedroom had a double bed in it that didn’t belong there. The mattress is now in the waste skip at Tullos and the bed itself dismantled and beneath the blue tarpaulin in the attic. The small bed had been left unprotected in the attic and had to be sanded down and varnished. One side of the bed had been sawed in two and crudely put back together in a dangerous way. I grinded all the protruding screws flat and cleaned everything up. The corner joints were reinforced to eliminate movement and noise. The mattress is old but orthopaedic quality and it has been mainly used for light weight children and with a protective cover on it – so it is still fine – but it had to be cleaned. There is a new “Silent Night” anti allergic, waterproof high quality cover on the mattress. There was a lot of cleaning from tape residue around the windows and the weather seals had to be re-seated on a few windows. Other than painting and cleaning there was little to be done in this room. The carpet was cleaned. The light switch fitting was secured as it had become loose.


Cleaning equipment including “Mop and bucket” and vacuum cleaner are currently stored in the cupboard in this room. The mop can be stored in the attic if necessary but the vacuum cleaner is compact enough to be kept in one of the cupboards indoors without too much inconvenience.

The desk top was sanded down and varnished.

Sitting Room

The sitting room was in almost as bad a mess as the kitchen! All of the walls and ceiling were re-painted and the wall mounted shelving was removed temporarily to do this properly. The carpet and leather suite were cleaned. The pine wood shelve at the window was sanded down and varnished. The overhead lamp shade was recovered from the bedroom and reinstalled with a wider support ring for holding eco light bulbs. All of the woodwork was cleaned. The curtains had been replaced by cheap ones that were too short – the originals being found up in the attic. I bought new curtains that are machine washable and the correct length. Be careful if ever removing the curtain bar because there is a tendency to pull the plaster off the walls – though I greased the pole where it enters the plastic retaining cups to help prevent this from happening. The curtains can be easily unclipped from the rings for washing. There are new plastic clips so they are strong and well designed – but best to remove them from the curtains before washing.


There is an old style Sony TV in the sitting room and another large Samsung TV stored in the attic beneath the blue tarpaulin – they are for general use but not furnished as an obligation on my part. If you use your own TV then place this one carefully beside the other one in the attic. (It’s really heavy so be careful taking it up the attic stairs!)


The is a coffee table and magazine stand also in the sitting room. The shelves are wall mounted to avoid the issue of uneven flooring in the old building  - many old buildings like this have this issue – the further back in time you go the less horizontal they are and the lower the ceilings!


The large 80cm x 50cm glass panel (Klein print) was broken and has been replaced with a plastic glass which although harder to break can be scratched much more easily. If this framed print is taken down then please take care how it is stored so as not to damage it in any way.  Not only was the glass broken by the previous occupants but the print had been taken out and when returned there was bluetack stuck between the glass and the print – once again JFK spotted absolutely nothing. The small Klein print suffered similar abuse and is permanently torn.



The main cushions were completely missing and the orange ones were found lying about in the attic. The orange covers are not supposed to be machine washable but on their own at low temperature they seem to wash fine in the machine. The cream cushions are new and are machine washable.


Recently parking has become a problem due to the local authorities placing parking meters everywhere to increase taxes and control over the population. You can still park for free over at Deemount Gardens about 500m to the South, but otherwise a parking permit can be bought from the local authorities situated at the East end of Union Street.


Items indicated in Yellow are extras


  • Zanussi WD 9091 washing Machine (Door marked near latch, cover missing from powder compartment, instruction panel kept in drawer)
  • Zanussi Freezer  - clean and defrosted (each compartment inside with a basket and door – one or two doors partially damaged)
  • Whirlpool Refrigerator – relatively new – clean all over
  • New World Gas Cooker - sparkling clean inside and outside – sides included (minor residue on the oven walls)
  • Zanussi Overhead extractor – clean all over and inside with new charcoal activated filter
  • ElectricToaster (cancel button broken)
  • Electric Kettle (Lid not attached)
  • Microwave Oven
  • Two solid pine chairs – old but okay
  • One solid pine table – levelled – freshly sanded and varnished top surface
  • One blue plastic medium sized bin
  • One glass worktop protector/cutting board (New)
  • One oversized solid wooden cutting block (New)
  • One set of three stainless steel pans with glass lids (New)
  • Overhead kitchen light with long lead – clean all over.
  • Blinds on each window (slightly sun faded – left one slightly frayed on one edge).
  • Linoleum in good condition and clean (One mark in front of refrigerator)
  • Cupboards and drawers freshly cleaned (check top surfaces above cooking area and at the side of the cooker) and varnished – knobs all present and secure
  • Walls and ceiling clean – paint good condition – Crown silk emulsion paint is wipe-able (crack on wall above the sink from subsidence)
  • Pine seating area has flat surfaces freshly sanded and varnished – clean and smooth.
  • Surrounds (skirting) beneath cupboards all present and clean
  • (3) Baskets – white coated wiring clean (one slightly broken where is sits against the gas meter)
  • Assorted crockery and cutlery (plus fully intact unit for storing them in the drawer)
  • Coffee pot with filter on lid – good condition
  • Worktops – clean  – reasonable condition – one notable gouge on the front worktop left of the cooker
  • Electronic central heating timing unit – functioning – good order
  • Various electrical sockets and telephone socket all secure and in good order.
  • Central heating radiator and thermostat in good order
  • Thermostat for hot water in good order
  • Assorted light bulbs in the worktop spotlights
  • Bulbs functioning in the overhead extractor
  • Spare extractor filter and mop head beneath the sink (various cleaning products)
  • Anodised aluminium sink border - held in place with silicone (New)
  • Pine wood sink surround in good condition – sanded and re-varnished
  • Tiles and grouting behind cooker clean and in good condition
  • Sink in good condition with central plug/filter clean and rubber plug in main basin. Chrome effect blank plug on empty front tap hole
  • Panels inside sink unit partially swollen and affected by frequent wetness (may ask JFK to apply ‘threadseal’ to the plumbing joints)
  • Fire door in good condition and clean inside and outside – round brass handles intact and secure
  • Windows cleaned inside and outside



  • extendable pole with hook for skylight manipulation  - stored behind door(New)
  • Wide shower head and hose (New)
  • Adjustable shower head holder (New)
  • Adjustable shower pole and machine washable, soft, white material shower curtain  - large plastic clips (New)
  • All walls clean and skylight access and tile borders re-painted. Crown silk emulsion paint is  wipe-able (Silk is more resistant to water than matt)
  • Two pine shelves -  above toilet one above sink
  • Toilet seat strong, clean good quality (slightly loose right securing bolt – hand turned)
  • Light switch cord intact and shower switch intact
  • Electric shower unit functioning and clean
  • Tiles and grouting clean (New)
  • Pine towel rack above central heating radiator
  • Pine toilet paper role holder
  • 2X Pine toothbrush and glass holders either side of sink
  • Mirror with wooden border – good condition
  • Power socket controlled through light switch
  • Bathrobe holder behind door
  • Blue bathroom floor mat
  • Linoleum in good condition and clean
  • Sink and toilet in good condition and clean
  • Bath clean but enamel worn and slightly stained
  • Box covering the toilet pipes and water valve intact, waterproofed and correctly fitting
  • All pine panels surrounding the bath present and intact
  • Pine skylight clean, sanded and re-varnished
  • Small mirrored wall cupboard intact – mirrors partially worn
  • Door in good condition inside and outside – round brass handles intact and secure


Sitting Room

  • Three seat cream leather sofa  - cleaned and border re-stitched. Several damage marks photographed. General wear of leather surface at the left end. No major issues
  • Two seat cream sofa – cleaned and border re-stitched. Wear okay
  • Carpet clean, revived and stains mostly removed – otherwise in good condition
  • Walls and ceiling freshly painted – wipe-able Dulux matt emulsion
  • Skirting boards clean
  • Door clean and good condition inside and outside – round brass handles secure
  • Pine wall shelving clean and intact (old violin)
  • Large 80cm by 50cm framed print – plastic glass (New)
  • Small Klein print in glass frame – print slightly torn (photo available)
  • Standard TV antenna socket slightly loose
  • All other sockets secure.
  • One small hole in the wall for passing a satellite TV extension cable
  • One extra small hole in the window frame (may have it blocked by JFK cleanly with flexible putty)
  • Pine window shelve sanded and re-varnished
  • Window weather seals secured in place and one missing seal replaced
  • Windows cleaned inside and outside
  • Machine washable curtains – as per photographs (New)
  • Matching fabric curtain holders – brass hooks mounted on wall
  • Cane magazine rack – good condition
  • Bamboo and glass coffee table – good condition and clean
  • White machine washable cushions (New)
  • Orange cushions – not officially machine washable but OK if washed separately in “non-fast colour” cycle
  • Sony TV (and remote control) on TV stand and satellite receiver
  • Central heating radiator and thermostat in good condition
  • No extra holes in the wall and no pin holes in the wood


Large Bedroom

  • Carpet cleaned (relatively new – with wood underlay) Good condition – a few light stains
  • Double bed. Joints reinforced and headboard slats secured.
  • Premium quality memory foam mattress (New)
  • High quality mattress protection cover (New)
  • Two pillows
  • Skirting boards clean
  • Wall paper has scuff marks and tears but all have been touched up with paint. Loose edges secured
  • Ceiling has movement cracks but special flexible matt ceiling paint has been used to cover the cracks
  • All walls and ceiling clean – wall paper and ceiling wipe-able (no smokers thankfully)
  • Curtains clean but slightly sun faded. New plastic clips
  • Gold chord curtain holders with tassels  in place with hooks on the wall
  • Desk with two drawers – surface marked and close to requiring to be sanded down and re-varnished. Joints secure
  • Linen basket with cotton liner – good condition
  • Reed waste paper basket – good condition
  • Pine bedside table – good condition
  • Wide reed overhead light shade with eco bulb – clean
  • Small bedside lamp with eco bulb – working and clean
  • Built in cupboard, wardrobe and drawers – clean. One door not sliding as well as it should.
  • Van Gough framed print – good condition
  • Tulips framed print – good condition
  • No extra holes in wall except one painted over on the blue wall left of the window


Small Bedroom

  • Carpet cleaned
  • Single bed – joints secured and head/foot boards sanded and re-varnished
  • Orthopaedic mattress cleaned
  • “Silent Night” high quality mattress protector (New)
  • Walls re-painted (Dulux matt emulsion)
  • Pine bedside table – good condition
  • Wallpaper cleaned and loose edges secured
  • Small blue bedside lamp – slightly discoloured due to overheating (probably had a too powerful bulb inserted)
  • Skirting boards clean
  • Sockets and switches secure
  • Built in cupboards clean
  • Overhead reed lamp shade and cable clean and eco bulb
  • Window surrounds clean and window seals secured
  • Windows cleaned both inside and outside
  • Lighthouse framed print in good condition
  • Electrolux 1800W compact vacuum cleaner with fittings in cupboard
  • Mop and bucket in cupboard


Interior Hall

  • Large ‘duck blue’ coloured shaggy rug (New)
  • Floor boards okay – deep blue floor paint.
  • Large whale framed print – good condition
  • Door flood lamp (New bulb)
  • Door clean and in good condition both inside and outside – mixed door handles – mortice lock
  • Brass letter box in good condition
  • Door stop (renewed)
  • Electricity meter door cover – corners chipped due to falls – otherwise okay
  • Electricity meter internal plastic cover clean and transparent
  • Walls okay but perhaps slightly dusty – hard to clean properly with the textured surface
  • Skirting boards and door surrounds all clean
  • Central light shade clean and intact with bulb working
  • Pine surround long mirror in good condition
  • Pine wall mounted clothes rack in good condition


Exterior Hall

  • Paint on flat door, private storage cupboard and attic door in good condition (avoid putting tape on the door as it can lift the paint when removing!)
  • Door mat – marked beneath as “top flat left”
  • large framed image – below landing light – belongs to me
  • All the light fittings visible from the door belong to me and I have replaced all the light bulbs
  • Linoleum was still needing a scrub when I left – but I ran out of time. (JFK cleaners are not doing a proper job – yet they get paid for this!)
  • Linoleum and railings are secure
  • Wall paint is clean and skirting boards cleaned (paint touched up)
  • Damp damage induced cracks above the framed image have been filled in a re-painted. Original roof damage was already repaired.



  • My side of the attic is cleared and brushed clean
  • Blue brush kept there for sweeping up dust
  • My belongings are below the blue tarpaulin – Single cream leather seat, double bed (dismantled), samsung TV and controller, white TV stand, carpet bits, spare worktop material


  • Fourth from the left – empty


  • Not a clue – ask Alistaire Johnstone ground floor – clothes hanging is possible


List of Jobs Done – May/June 2012

  • Main windows protected - sand, clean, 2 to 3 coats of stain - Ronseal Deep Mahogony.
  • Wet rot cleaned out and mastic fix
  • Velux window mould cleaned, sanded, varnish protected
  • Attic emptied and cleaned up - 3 double mattresses to Tullos waste skips
  • Cellar cleared completely and cleaned
  • Storage cupboard cleaned out.
  • New double mattress bought and installed
  • Single mattress cleaned
  • Double bed dismantled and moved up to attic
  • Cement hole at curtain rail fix point
  • Wash two pillows to see if products will bleach them
  • Repair latch for washing machine door.
  • Purchase shower head and support and install.
  • Purchase and install shower curtain and rail.
  • Purchase steel pots, rug, chopping board and worktop protector, double mattress protector, 2 cushions, new mop, hand brush and hand shovel, new curtains for sitting room.
  • Bought extendable.pole.and attached hook for Velux control.
  • Bought door mat and 3 hall lights 10 yr one screw (above photo) two bayonet - installed. Lamps cleaned.
  • Bought filter for cooker - Curries
  • Bought industrial angles for small bed.
  • Dumped final car load of waste at Tullos
  • Sanded and varnished small bed headboards
  • Cleaned and varnished dismounted upper kitchen cupboards.
  • Wash another 4 pillows.
  • Assembled small bed.
  • Made support blocks for each corner.
  • Sanded and varnished sitting room window shelf.
  • Wash all remaining sheets and duvet cover.
  • Dismount wall shelf - sitting room
  • Paint entire sitting room
  • Clean window sitting room window frames and windows
  • Clean leather suite
  • Re - mount curtain fittings and pole
  • Change.curtains at Homebase - buy single mattress cover, carpet cleaner, 60x80 plastic glass
  • Add seal to sitting room window and fix another loose one.
  • Replace glass and clean print.
  • Clean inside other Klein print.
  • Clean skirting boards
  • Clean wall shelved and remove stuck paint and plaster.
  • Mount wall shelves
  • Photograph exterior windows and cellar.
  • Clean extractor and all grease off shelves.
  • Replace extractor filter
  • Buy bulbs for extractor
  • Wash cushion covers
  • Photograph sitting room
  • Fit extractor filter
  • Repair grip for extractor window
  • Clean support screws for extractor
  • Change bulbs in extractor
  • Clean and varnish all lower cupboard doors
  • Buy sanding paper, lamp shade holder, multipoint.
  • Drain water, dismantle kitchen hot water tap and clean out mechanism.
  • Clean gunge out of water tank. Flush tank.
  • Bend ballcock to stop overflow dripping.
  • Sand kitchen table
  • Varnish table.
  • Clean large bedroom light shade and put it up.
  • Dismantle add hoc wiring in bathroom
  • Door knob repairs - using washers.
  • Second coat of varnish for table.
  • Paint around tiles bathroom
  • Multipoint in bathroom rewired and re mounted on wall instead of against mirror.
  • Rebuild and modify bathroom pipe access cover
  • Fill in cracks in hallway and sand down. Clean to see what needs paint.
  • Buy wire holder pins, two more wide light shade holders, anodised alu strips for sink.
  • Stripped sink surround removing pine.
  • Sand and varnish pine plus wood from pipe access in bathroom
  • Paint outside hall and retouch with silk.paint.
  • Seal with PVA glue parts in hall where colour comes through
  • Re-glue box for pipe access.
  • Re-paint ceiling spots in big bedroom with silk paint.
  • Sand and varnish desk top for small bedroom. Second coat sink surround.
  • Buy paint for door, more sanding pads, touch up paint for bedroom wall paper.
  • Re-paint hall with silk emulsion.
  • Touch up skirting boards in external hall and paint pipe cover white. ( bathroom)
  • Second coat for desk.
  • Re-install all pine around sink.
  • Paint touch up external doors.
  • Final touch up of hall white wall
  • Touch up blue walls.
  • Re-install pipe box in bathroom
  • Install alu sink protection - cut manually - mastic/sealant
  • Buy sander and plane and some wood.
  • Sand window seat and varnish.
  • Paint attic staircase
  • Damp proof patch in hall
  • Paint door plinth and floorboard ends
  • Pull out cooker and clean behind
  • Clean all cooker inside
  • Final coat hall touch up wall above sink.
  • Hang photo hall
  • Clean sink
  • Correct and clean kitchen light
  • Pull out cooker and stain support
  • Pull out fridge remove bracket impeding door and release screw wheels.for adjustment, clean lino surround. Remove entire worktop for this.
  • Clean grease off microwave
  • Clean toaster - scour metal
  • Clean metal plug for sink with scouring pad
  • Clean kettle
  • Second coat of stain
  • Touch up corners of walls
  • Defrost freezer
  • Emulsion small bedroom
  • Clean walls and woodwork
  • Clean windows
  • Hang curtains
  • Clean carpet
  • Install furniture
  • Fix light socket
  • Attach loose wallpaper small bedroom
  • Clean beneath sink
  • Remove bars below lower cupboards and clean them
  • Clean interior of freezer.
  • Fix loose bulb in extractor
  • Clean inside airing cupboard
  • Clean kitchen windows
  • Clean kitchen walls and surrounds
  • Clean kitchen floor - removing paint.
  • Wallpaper big room paste and paint
  • Paint ceiling patches again
  • Double bed fix
  • Three chairs repaired
  • Skirting cleaned and cupboards
  • Window cleaned
  • Curtain catches replaced and hung
  • Paint touch up skirting boards
  • Clean carpet
  • Clean kitchen sink
  • Clean fridge
  • Move stuff into storage
  • B&Q for sink plug
  • Clean gutter and push back slate
  • Wash hall floor and remove paint stains. Spot that door stop is missing because meter cover falls on my head - it was upside down too. Hole will now need painting on floor.
  • Paint holes
  • Fit sink plug
  • Fit rug in hall
  • Clean bathroom
  • Sew up suite
  • Buy and install door stop
  • Buy and install flood lamp