I have been working as a handyman for the charity since the service started in 2010. There are many great things about the job, and one of them– despite what the title of this article might suggest– is that there is no such thing as a typical day. Every day brings its unique challenges and rewards.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a day that provided some typical challenges – and one particularly unique reward. But before going on to that, first a bit about the handyman service. StAndEN has 3 projects that provide a handyman service to eligible people. The handyman service involves installing simple ways of reducing home energy use. The most common things we install are low energy lightbulbs, thermal curtains, draught-proofing, and radiator reflector panels that slip in behind radiators and reduce heat loss through the outside wall behind them. But we can also install chimney balloons to prevent heat loss up open chimneys and provide energy monitors for people to keep an eye on their energy use if they don’t have smart meters.
As project handyman, I work two days a week, and you may see me driving around the eastern half of Fife from Glenrothes eastwards. My patch takes in the East Neuk, St Andrews, Cupar, the southern banks of the Tay and all the areas in between. A beautiful area and one that I never tire of driving around to do my work. On this particular day, I had five jobs in my diary. When a client has spoken to one of our Energy Advisors and is eligible for the installation of some of the energy measures I mentioned earlier, the Advisor creates a job sheet for me describing what has been agreed upon. My job is to contact the client, arrange an appointment, and then carry out the work. This is not always as straightforward as it sounds. Some people don’t have credit on their phones, and others are anxious about answering their phones when they don’t recognise the number. Even when I get through (by voice or text), it’s not always easy to find a suitable time to do the work. And even when all that is organised and I turn up as arranged, not everyone remembers that I’m coming, so occasionally people are out when I knock on their door.
On the day in question, my jobs were around Glenrothes and Cupar (to reduce my carbon footprint, I try my best to stick to a small-ish geographical area in any one day though that isn’t always easy). The first job was to provide some lightbulbs and, because the person was unable to use their gas central heating, I also provided a small halogen heater.
My next job involved installing thermal curtains, radiator reflectors, and lightbulbs for a client. What happened during this job gave me a warm glow for the rest of the day! After installing some energy efficiency measures, I then got on to installing a radiator reflector behind his living room radiator. Often, some things have become stuck behind the radiator (among some of the more mentionable ones were eight socks – none of which matched!). So, the first thing I do is to ensure nothing will get in the way of fixing the reflector is to check behind and dislodge any items. As I looked in behind the radiator, I could see something glinting in the light of my torch. I managed to hook it out and realised it was a silver ring. When I showed it to the client, he was thrilled. He thought he had lost it months before and explained its sentimental value. He couldn’t stop repeating how much it meant to be reunited with this ring. It was one of those occasions when something completely unexpected and delightful happened that made my day. Later that day, by coincidence, I bumped into him in town when I was going to buy a sandwich, and he was still shaking his head in disbelief that he was wearing his ‘lost’ ring.
On my way to my next client, I realised that, with a slight detour, I could pass the house of someone I had been trying unsuccessfully to contact for a few weeks, so I decided to pop in and see if they were in. On this occasion, the person was out, but I have found that sometimes by just turning up, I can provide the handyman service to people who it has proved really difficult to contact by phone or text.
Next on the list was a single parent who needed thermal living room curtains installed. When I turned up at the door, there was no reply, and I couldn’t get through on the phone from the doorstep. Occasionally this happens – sometimes the client forgets, or something occurs that means they must go out. It’s helpful when they get in touch, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. On this occasion, it turned out that the person was in and just hadn’t heard me!
So with some time on my hands, I scanned through the list of job sheets on my tablet and selected one that was reasonably nearby and could be done in the time I had available. Luckily, the person was in and was happy for me to come round right away. Because we carry a stock of different sized curtains and poles, I am confident that I will be able to do most jobs, which proved to be the case on this occasion. While I fitted his living room curtains, the client kept me amused by telling me about his time in various rock and punk bands. Never a dull moment!
The final appointment of the day showed that sometimes you can only really see what is needed when you are on site. Whilst doing the kind of handyman work required by the project is not exactly rocket science, it is nice to get the occasional slightly more challenging task that requires a bit of thinking outside the box. The job sheet had requested a door curtain because of the draughts coming into the house from a poorly fitting wood and glass front door. Whilst it would also help prevent heat loss through the glass, I felt a curtain would not be adequate. On closer inspection, I could see the metal and rubber draught-proofing strips on the outside of the door had perished in places. The client agreed with my suggestion to replace them, and in a short while, the draught problem, and the heat loss problem through the door, were solved.
Looking back on that day, maybe it was more typical than I initially thought. Fitting a range of energy-saving measures for many people living in very different circumstances. Having to deal with people not being in but also being able to arrange last-minute appointments to make more efficient use of my time. Dealing with more routine work and sometimes having to be a bit creative. However, it’s not every day you get to cheer someone up by reuniting them with a ring they thought was gone forever!
If you would like to find out more about our energy advice projects, or would like to see if you are eligible for help from our Home Handy Service, please contact us today!