Tuesday 22 October 2019


Last night I called by the cottage to put out the filled recycling bin for collection by the Local Authority. Our previous guests had neglected to do this, despite the guidance in the handbook. The recycling rubbish is collected only on alternate weeks so if you miss a collection, it is a further two week delay.

Unfortunately, this morning, I found the recycling bin not emptied and tagged by the Local Authority as not collected due to plastics being mixed with the  paper items section. 

Plastics, aluminium foil, plastic film all in the paper bin;

What more can we do? We give clear instructions in the cottage handbook for guests and each section of the recycling bin is clearly labelled as to what goes where, we also provide the Local Authority Guide on recycling but still the guests get it wrong. It is in effect pure laziness!  The outcome is that I'll have to bin-dive and sort the rubbish,  store it, then wait a further two weeks for this rubbish to be collected.

I don't blame the Local Authority for refusing to collect this time. I'd put the bin out in the dark the previous evening and not spotted the mixing. The Local Authority would have to pay extra to the recycling company for contaminated recycling if they'd taken this load.  Maybe I should talk with the Holiday Agency (Sykes) and devise a method of charging back the cost to the guests who do not follow the rules?

Carpet Cleaning

As I type I am sitting in the holiday cottage. All the doors and windows are open, even though it is only 3 deg C outside. It is time for the carpets to be professionally cleaned. Once or twice a year we employ a carpet cleaning specialist to steam and wash the all of the carpets in the cottage. He has a big noisy machine, lots of water and pipes around the house.  We deliberately chose polypropylene carpets to allow this routine cleaning. They have good stain rejection and dry quite quickly without any shrinkage. You can guarantee the water in his machine will be dark and muddy by the time he completes his work.

In addition to the charge from the cleaning company (£75), it raises an additional cost because we cannot accept guests during the week of the cleaning. This time we had to turn down someone wanting to rent the cottage for seven nights.

Monday 21 October 2019

Managing the Network in Holiday Cottage

Our holiday cottage is in the middle of a short Victorian terrace row of houses. It is located in the town of Wirksworth, an old lead and limestone mining town. Originally it had two bedrooms, with no bathroom in the building. The toilet was in an outhouse and the occupants would bath in a tin bath in the kitchen. We've since converted one of the bedrooms into a bathroom.  

One other feature demanded by our guests in the cottage is a good Broadband Internet connection. It is generally one of the first questions we're asked when guests arrive: "What's the WiFi password?" Indeed we've had some guests who spend most of their stay on the settee in the cottage playing network computer games. We installed a business quality ADSL Broadband service with a WiFi service in the house delivered from the ISP Router. Usage is unlimited and the average top speed is 18 mbps download and 1mbps upload. The business service option costs more, but gives me a better service level in the event of faults.

One of the adjoining houses does not have their own internet connection and a limited income, so as a courtesy, a few months ago we allowed them to hook into our WiFi service free of charge. In general this does not generate any additional costs to us, but potentially reduces slightly the WiFi capacity available to our paying guests.

As a general upgrade I've recently signed up to a Plusnet partial fibre "SuperFast" broadband service (FTTC / VDSL). This has become available over the past couple of years. At our location this should give an Internet speed of 75 mbps download and a much faster upload (20 mbps) to our guests. However it does give rise to another potential issue. I don't want our neighbours to gain access to the faster service. To control this external access I've turned off the ISP WiFi on their router and installed a Ubiquiti UAP-AC-Lite  network access point to provide WiFi in the cottage. It is powered by Power Over Ethernet (POE) so needs only a single network cable from the ISP Router to the Ubiquiti access point unit on the wall. This POE method simplifies the cabling for the new unit.

The Ubiquiti device allows you to have up to four WiFi services simultaneously. You can also monitor them remotely and changing the settings on-the-fly without disturbing the holiday cottage guests. 
  • I've setup one owner's WiFi band which is password protected and gives unrestricted capacity. 
  • A second high speed WiFi band is dedicated for paying guests, and this is protected by a different password. 
  • Finally there is a third guest band of WiFi which is open, not protected by password, available for visitors and neighbours. 
This third band is set with usage limits so that paying guests on the main band are not impacted by external usage.  Passwords can be changed remotely (UniFi Cloud service) by me at the start of each new rental via an Internet web page. This is the same type of WiFi system as the ones used in Premier Inn Hotels, except we don't charge our guests extra for the fast service.

The access point comes pre-configured from the supplier. It really is just a plug in and go device. If you want to monitor or alter the configuration it can be done from any web browser. It does help to have some knowledge of network technology if you are planning to tinker. The Ubiquiti devices are good at "mesh" networking if you need to deploy multiple access points, without running network cables, to ensure coverage of your property, but in most cases one unit will service a whole house.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Hooray, good guests!

We had some great guests staying in the cottage this week, we'd love to see them stay again. They were polite, and left the cottage in a clean and tidy state. They didn't complain when the gas supply to the cottage was cut off for 24 hours, leaving them with no cooker, central heating or hot showers.

In fact the gas was cut off to most of the houses in Wirksworth. Some for  as long as four days. A water main burst and injected a lot of water into the gas main. Cadent, the gas network company, has had squads of engineers in town turning off the gas in  the houses while they drain the water out of the gas main. Once a section is clear of water they re-visit the houses to turn on the gas and check appliances are safe.

In the case of the holiday cottage, our guests kindly managed the interaction with Cadent.

Sadly we had to turn down a last minute guest booking from Sykes, because we were not sure whether the cottage would have gas or not. It turned out afterwards that Cadent had been able to restore the gas supply on the eve of the proposed booking. So that cost us a week's rental.

Saturday 5 October 2019

Blocked shower drain

When we refurbished the cottage for use as a holiday cottage we had a new bathroom built. Part of that is a shower cubicle. The house is relatively small and not much room for drainage pipes underfloor for the shower. To reduce the amount of cutting into floor joists our plumber, unbeknown to us, had used small diameter plastic pipes. So the shower drains okay under normal usage, but it is easily blocked by foreign objects.  Our guests tend not to tell us if they've (partially) blocked the drains and leave it for the next guests to find.

Now, whenever we "turn around" the cottage after a rental period we try to check everything is working properly. We have a couple of hours to clean and check the whole house from top to bottom. One of those checks is to check the shower drain is working okay. In fact we always bring a plumbers plunger with us as part of our cottage cleaning kit. If there's the slightest hint of a slow draining on the shower, it is time to get the plunger out and give the shower drain a good work over with the plunger. This time around we found the plastic cover for a razor blade lodged in the drain causing a blockage.

They'd also managed to use spare pre-paid waste sacks at £2.40 a go, by just partially filling the sack we'd provided. The previous set of guests managed to break a drinking glass, for which they'd provided a reasonable replacement, but we found fragments of glass on the kitchen floor. The guests before those were terrible, breaking a pane of glass in the front door, breaking the kitchen waste bin, staining towels and bedding, leaving unwashed dishes. Not long before those guests, a set of guests had showered their dog in the bathroom shower, leaving fur clogging the drains.

Our guests rarely follow the local council rules for putting out rubbish.

What are these people like in their own homes?