Monday 28 June 2021

Goodbye Sykes - we're giving notice!

We've finally tired of Sykes' games. They provide poor quality guests, and don't help when things go wrong. The term "Teflon Shoulders" comes to mind.  They've made a lot of money on the back of our capital investment and free labour. We're tired of subsidising guests stays in our property for Sykes profits. 

They now appear to be tinkering with contractual terms and conditions. A contract should document the business agreement and relationship between the parties. It is a document of last resort to be used when things go wrong, but when one side attempts to unilaterally change those terms and conditions to their sole benefit it is a sign that the original business agreement has broken down. Our guess this is largely due to the change of ownership of Sykes and the need to recover the massive sums borrowed for the purchase.

Six more months before we are finally free.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Pensioner atop a 30 foot ladder

 Our holiday cottage is in a terraced row of houses. Access to the back garden is either through the house, or through the back gardens of adjoining houses. There's an alleyway at the end of the row of gardens.  Access is not easy, as there's a busy road to the front of the cottage and parking is not permitted during the day. 

When I saw plants growing in the roof gutter at the back of our cottage I knew that we had to take action otherwise in the next heavy rainfall the gutters would overflow. This would affect not just our property, but also adjoining ones. If the blockage was on our property we'd be liable for damage to the other houses. The gutter is about 20 feet (6 metres) high above the brick surfaced courtyard and it needs a 30 foot ladder to access the gutter. There's no space at the cottage to store a large ladder, so I had to transport one on the roof rack of my car (3 x 3.4 metre sections). I also needed a ladder "stand-off" at the top end of the ladder to prevent any damage to the plastic guttering.

It was quite a struggle carrying the 3-section ladder from the car roof through the narrow alleyway to the back of the house. Meanwhile the crazy Derbyshire drivers had managed to create a traffic jam around my car in the few minutes while I was moving the ladder. It was soon relieved when I drove away to park safely in a side road. Erecting the heavy ladder was a bit of a struggle. At age 70, the weight is close to my lifting capacity in the narrow space of the backyard. However with a bit of careful patience I succeeded in getting the ladder in place without causing any damage. As you can see in the picture above, the stand-off keeps the ladder clear of the guttering while allowing the end of the ladder to project above the roof edge. 

The tools needed to clean out the guttering are simple, some drain rods and end attachments, a bucket and a trowel. It was then just a matter of climbing the ladder with the tools and performing the cleaning. Fortunately I have a very good head for heights, a relic of my rock climbing days, though I'm not too keen on ladders. After 10 minutes of work I'd cleared the gutter and removed about half a bucket load of debris and plants.  The actual blockage was in the gutter section belonging to the neighbouring property, but I cleaned it anyway.  Then it was the dreary process of removing the ladder, strapping it on to the car roof and transporting it home. Easy, but quite physically demanding work, made easier and safe by having the right tools. Our next guests were due to arrive later that afternoon.

I was planning to produce a video of the activity, but it was raining and things were slippery. I didn't fancy holding a camera atop a wet ladder.

Monday 21 June 2021

Stubborn carpet stain

 We've noticed a carpet stain on the front room of the holiday cottage. It appeared some time ago after one guest check out, but we are not sure what caused it. Following this we had all of the carpets cleaned by a professional cleaning company. However they were not successful in removing the stain. After the most recent guest we noticed the staining was looking particularly bad.

Carpet stain by front door of cottage

We were coming to the conclusion that we might have to have a new carpet laid in the lounge. This would have been annoying as the carpet is only a couple of years old. I thought I'd give one last attempt to clean the stain myself and after some research I settled on a Karcher Carpet Cleaner (Puzzi 10/1 model) on hire from Brandon Hire Station. Once all of the extras, such as cleaning solutions and tax, were taken into account the bill for a day's rental came to 39 GBP. Not cheap, but an awful lot less than buying a new carpet. The cleaner is professional quality, but small enough to fit in a car boot/trunk for transport.

After 30 minutes of cleaning work, we had a pretty good result. The cleaner left the carpet fairly dry. We only needed to close the cottage to rentals for a day. The water in the waste bucket of the cleaner was quite dirty after the process.

Needless to say, the earlier mentioned professional cleaning company will not be getting any repeat business from us. They should have been able to deal with those stains. If only we could have identified which guests caused the stains so that we could bill them (£47) for the cost of stain removal. Essentially they must have spilled something sticky, on the carpet, that was accumulating dirt, probably a sugary soft drink.

Saturday 5 June 2021

A routine Covid-19 Changeover cleaning session

 My wife was indisposed yesterday when it was time for guest changeover, so I had to work alone. I started at 10:30 am and the work was completed by 16:30 in the afternoon. The departing guests had a dog with them and had not reported any problems during their stay.

On checking the crockery, I found a dinner plate missing from the matching set. We keep four place settings for the crockery in the cottage. There was no note left to explain the missing plate. Fortunately we keep a full duplicate set of the crockery at home, but it meant I had to undertake an additional 16 mile roundtrip to collect a spare plate in time for the next guests.

The crockery at the start of cleaning
One plate missing

A replacement dinner plate .
The missing plate restored

I later found the missing plate in pieces in the General Waste bin when I was cleaning the bin as part of the Covid-19 safety procedures.

While making up the bed I found that our guests had managed to stain the mattress cover with tea. Once again no mention of this issue. Fortunately I had a spare on hand in the cottage linen cupboard to provide for the guests due to arrive three hours later.. (Edit note 7th June 21: This was a brand new John Lewis mattress cover. The stains have not come out after washing. Effectively it is a total loss so far as use in the cottage is concerned.)

Tea stain on mattress cover
Ruined mattress cover

While I was cleaning the shower, I noticed that the water was slow to drain from the shower pan. On investigation I discovered the drain trap was clogged with dog hair. It was the same type/colour of  dog hair matching the previous guest's dog.  They'd used the shower for their dog, even though the handbook forbids this.  Maybe we should charge extra for pets staying with the guest?

Dog hair in the shower
Dog hair blocking the shower drain