The Saga Continues

They say there are two certainties in life: Death and Taxes. But I believe there is a third, potentially only affecting a few: Projects at Crockern.

In July, Roger and I had elected to take a break from our long list of renovations and instead focus on the delights of summer. We planned to spend August visiting with friends, tending to the garden, catching up on books, exploring new walks and generally, enjoying our lives before heading into the next big phase of things. Out of necessity, we took on one project, which was to replace the oil tank I wrote about in the AGA Saga.

Oil tanks aren’t complicated and getting a new one in place shouldn’t be either. There are simple steps to follow. You order a tank, it gets delivered, and a professional comes out and hooks the whole thing up, right? But, as we were embracing our time off, these seemingly simple procedures took an unexpected turn.


Step one: Order new tank and arrange delivery:

When the stop cock was repaired, it was a short term fix resulting in a mad rush to source a new tank and have it delivered as the then plumber was available the following week to switch to the new tank.

We scrambled to find a double skinned oil tank that could be delivered in 24 hours and lined up a friend to help us move it into place. Despite meticulous organization and detailed instructions on our location and the access restrictions up to the house, we received a phone call advising that our new oil tank was sitting upon an 18 wheeler-semi (in the UK this massive vehicle is known as an articulated lorry…..whatever).   Suffice it to say, it is not possible for a vehicle this size to make it up our track, let alone turn around, so our new tank was delayed by an extra day.

Frantic phone calls ensued, and several days later the tank arrived on a smaller truck with the greatest of ease and the charge for 24-hour express delivery was waived. Our pretty new tank was sitting in place and awaiting its hook up.


Step two: Plumber comes out to do the tank switch:

The new tank is in place and the plumber mentioned in step one never showed the following week as arranged. Nor, did he appear the week after, or, the week after that. There were no returned messages either.   Embracing our relaxed summer, we only partially shook the bushes on this, until it was clear we needed a new plumber for this job.


Step two, section A: Find a new plumber to come out to do the tank switch:

I called one plumber. I called another. I called a third. I awaited returned messages. I called again. I finally landed on someone who scheduled a time to come out. Meanwhile, to properly lay the new oil cabling, Roger dug oddly shaped trenches that had to circumnavigate granite stones, the size of small cars, hidden below ground.

Transferring oil from the old tank to a temporary tank.

Transferring oil from the old tank to a temporary tank.


Channels for the new pipes.

Channels for the new pipes.


Steps three – seven: Drain the old tank into a temporary holding tank; Disconnect old tank and hook up new tank; Transfer the transferred oil from the holding tank into the new tank; Test to see that everything (boiler and AGA work):

The new plumbers showed up on time, commenced work, and by mid-day, the transfer of oil from the old tank to the new, along with new connections were complete. The pipes were encased in protective insulation and laid into the snaky channels. The boiler worked and we waited for the AGA to light. As this takes time, we said goodbye to the plumbers.


Step Eight: Celebrate:



Skip celebratory step and add new steps, as the AGA didn’t light:

After a quick phone call the chief plumber and his apprentice showed up to assess. This felt serious. And it was. The new tank, 1/3 of the way filled with oil and another 1500 litres scheduled for delivery was not high enough for the effects of gravity required by the AGA. Despite our meticulous measurements, we were up against another phase of this seemingly endless project. Now we had to build a plinth.

As Roger and I absorbed this news, our brains were spinning. Roger was scheduled to take a trip to Scotland and was contemplating canceling his travel plans. Meanwhile, I was thinking of how we are going to get this done before my brother arrives for a two-week visit. It is one thing to eat tuna fish sandwiches for dinner every night during a project; it is another thing to serve them to visitors. It feels depressing.

The technical drawings for the raised platform.

The technical drawings for the raised platform.


Now we have three tanks. The temporary holding tank, sitting empty. The old tank, moved and once again holding oil. The new tank (right) awaiting its move and fill.

Now we have three tanks. The temporary holding tank, sitting empty. The old tank, moved and once again holding oil. The new tank (right) awaiting its move and fill.


While Roger and my cousins were sipping whisky and trying on kilts, I did what I do best and planned. I got the schematics for this plinth, went to the building yard and scheduled delivery of the necessary materials. I also scheduled the plumber to return in order to empty the new tank into a holding tank and help move the new tank so that Roger and I, along with our dear friend and neighbour, can build two pillars with concrete lintels to rest the new tank. I’ve borrowed a cement mixer and mostly lined up friends to help lift the tank into its new elevated position, forever reminding us of its power to keep our AGA happy and dictate our activities. When all this is complete, I’ll schedule the plumber again to move the oil from the temporary tank to the new tank in time for the delayed delivery of oil.

Our oil is having a traveling adventure of its own and we’ve only discovered one new walk. Increasingly, I am convinced if I had a pound coin for every time I’ve said, “I’m waiting for the plumber.” I could probably finance this project.

The new platform for the new tank. A temple to oil.

The new platform for the new tank. A temple to oil.


23 comments on “The Saga Continues

  1. prickly says:

    the third certainty is actually that you always have to wait for plumbers. they rule the world (with an iron pipe).

  2. carolyns says:

    I am really amazed at your initiative and strength. I would have given up the project years ago! We rented Crockern in the late 50’s and early 60’s and spent nearly every weekend and part of the summer there. My sister visited you a few months ago and told me about the amazing things you have done to the cottage. She also recommended your blog. I haven’t had time to read every entry but have read a lot and I love your writing style, sense of humour /humor and your interesting stories about life at Crockern. I hope one day to come and see for myself how you are progressing. Very best wishes for a happy end to the Aga saga. Carolyn

  3. jllevitan says:

    I too commend you on your fortitude. No matter what happens you find a way to muddle through. Very inspiring.

    We went through our bookshelves today and gave away about 200 books including many travel guides but we held on to our English travel books with the intention to visit again someday.

  4. The saga was so vivid and cumulative with its knock-on problems that by the end I needed a drink. I felt it had happened to me… RH

  5. says:

    Omg. At least you survived. Xxx

    Sent from my iPad


  6. […] Source: The Saga Continues « Crockern Farm […]

  7. RobP says:

    Plumbers are in short supply in the Uk, even after a relatively recent Government initiative to cross-train people.

    A friend of mine is getting a lot of work done to his house and seems to be running into similar issues of tradesmen not turning up – and these weren’t plumbers either.

    I wonder if it’s a building industry thing?

  8. Susanne Ogaitis-Jones says:

    Enjoyed your story! Brings back memories of the oil tank at our weekend fixer-up place– it sat prominently on the lower front porch next to the front door. After we abandoned using oil heat and opted for just the wood stove (another story…), it just sat there for a couple of years collecting spiders and dust. Finally we found someone to take it and any leftover oil. Of course with it gone we had to repair holes, repaint the wall, and get a new porch chair. Yeah! The desired end will eventually arrive!

    • Love the happy outcome to your story. It holds hope. We have so many projects and some seem to be endless until we look back at photos and realise what we have accomplished. Sometime you will need to come visit.

  9. Uhm, can I PLEASE come live with you? 😉 I’m an amazing cook and gardener! 🙂

  10. hilary charlie and thomas says:

    Oh no! What a nightmare! I got knackered just reading about it. Think I might need to go for an afternoon nap earlier than usual. Hope you’re able to enjoy hot food and freshly baked bread soon and definitely before your brother arrives. Also hope that Scotland was a success:)

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