The Lobby: Off-topic discussion

Hello and welcome to The Lobby! Your place to discuss subjects that just don’t fit in our other conversations. Make yourself at home!

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Do you want to discuss an issue but can’t find the right place to post it? Or maybe you’re looking for somewhere to chat with your community pals? Well, you’ve come to the right place…

As with any community or conversation it can – and does – wander off-topic. This is perfectly natural, but it hasn’t always been possible to do so on some of our posts because of the precisely defined nature of each subject.

So, at the behest of some of our community members, we created this off-topic discussion area – The Lobby.

Any ideas spawned here in The Lobby could generate new posts for debate and discussion on Which? Conversation, so you – our community members – are able to help shape the direction of our community.

What happened to the original Lobby?

Why do we have two Lobbies? Well, like all good franchises, we wanted to experiment with a sequel. But seriously, the original Lobby was so popular (with almost 13,000 comments), it was becoming hard to load the page.

So we’re starting fresh with what we’re affectionately calling “The Lobby 2”.

No comments from first Lobby have been deleted, and you can still link to comments, but you won’t be able to add new comments.

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Comments

Absolutely furious that a handful of things not suited to my taste are well liked by others.

Never answer an anonymous letter.

Well you could sign and post it without any comeback.

Return to sender.

My dog Minton ate all my shuttlecocks. Bad Minton.

I am surprised that got through the filter, Ian.

Yes, we have had that joke before.

It’s disgusting.
M Whitehouse
Chorlton c*m Hardy

Welcome to Tourism Day, the day in 1822 when Jean-François Champollion announced he had deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics using the Rosetta Stone and the day in 1905 when the journal Annalen der Physik published Einstein’s paper “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?”, introducing the equation E=mc2.

My neighbours are listening to great music. Whether they like it or not.

If you were a prawn you could be accused of being shellfish.

We always know when the parents are out.

“I have a split personality,” said Tom, being frank.

A classic Jekyll and Hyde character.

I can tell people are judgmental just by looking at them.

Narcissus may not agree.

Welcome to Good Neighbour Day, the day in 935 when Wenceslas was murdered by his brother, Boleslaus I of Bohemia and the day in 1858 when Donati’s comet became the first to be photographed

I’ve always had an irrational fear of speed bumps. But I’m slowly getting over it.

With therapy you might just be annoyed by them. I presume that this is why we say ‘get the hump’.

I find it very offensive when people get easily offended.

If you get in the mood to do some work, someone will always wake you up.

As I mentioned in another Convo, my gas boiler packed up on Friday evening. I spoke to the chap who serviced the boiler in August, but he and his son are involved in a large plumbing job. He will order a new fan and fit it on Friday afternoon without coming to look at the boiler first. Thankfully the weather is warm and I have an immersion heater and electric heaters.

Maybe I should have emergency cover for my heating system but over the years that would have cost a lot of money.

I have good independent plumber who charges reasonable rates and is very cooperative. When I have a problem he is very quick to attend; my mains pipe fractured and became detached from the stopcock; as you may recall he was round to fix it within 15 minutes as, luckily, he was on a local job. I have certainly saved money over a warranty cover scheme.

I hope the weather stays mild, wavechange, and saves you electricity.

I do remember and you were very lucky, Malcolm. My chap came promptly when I wanted the boiler serviced at any time that was convenient, but he has a big job on at the moment and it will also take time to get the part. This happened once before when I wanted someone to replace the failed pump in the airing cupboard. The plumber was fitting a new bathroom but offered to lend me the tools needed if I called round, which I did.

I’m staying in the conservatory at the moment. Normally when it gets too hot I open a window but instead I have opened the door into the house.

What is the difference between a plumber and a qualified heating engineer?

Some years ago when visiting my late father, I arrived at his cottage to find him dangerously cold. His rads were barely lukewarm and the water coming from his taps was almost boiling. He had repeatedly called a local plumber to fix his CH system and charging for his services, but the same problem kept coming back.

I was unfamiliar with the area so immediately called .British Gas emergency who came out straight away and sorted the problem and I persuaded my father to take out an annual maintenance contract, which he could well afford to do.

I don’t have a maintenance contract but rely on a local CH heating contractor (Which Trusted Trader) to service my boiler annually and it’s still working well given its age; so my question is, are plumbers as well qualified to carry out CH repairs as a recognised CH Contractor?

I guess for gas central heating, a qualified heating engineer will be registered as Gas Safe.

Apparently it is common practice for plumbers to install gas boilers then get their Gas Safe registered mates to pass the installation.

Our boiler was installed by a kitchen fitter who was trained by the Gas Safe engineer who later tested and passed the system. The engineer would only do this as he knew the fitter, knew the boiler would be installed correctly and his own reputation and Gas Safe membership would not be at risk. The fitter was not going to be gas-safe registered as it costs quite a lot a year to be on the register.

I would say that a qualified heating engineer is a person who has studied [and qualified in] the science and operation of heating systems and can design systems using different fuel sources and with different technical attributes. The engineer can calculate the heating capacity required from the volumetric measurements of the spaces to be heated and an assessment of the insulation values of the exterior surfaces as well as the heat loss potential. He or she will also be competent to specify the separate parts of the system to ensure a balanced and adequate circulation of heat as well as to determine the ventilation requirements for the heat source. Their design and specification competency should also include knowledge of the technical requirements for vented and unvented systems and the various control systems available. The qualified engineer can also, subject to possessing the relevant qualification, inspect, test and certify an installation for the purposes of the building regulations and any other regulations applicable to the particular type of system.

Most domestic central heating systems are installed, repaired and serviced by heating engineering technicians who have been trained in specific competencies. They may possess some or all of the qualifications of an engineer. To install or work on a gas fired system they need to be qualified as a ‘gas safe engineer’.

A plumber is not required to have any particular qualifications but most have received some form of training and they might have knowledge of the water regulations. A plumber can change a radiator or deal with a leak in the pipework of a central heating system but might not be competent to work on the heat source or the high pressure parts of a system.

There is a professional body for heating and plumbing engineers and technicians, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering. Members of the CIPHE are entitled to apply to register via the Engineering Council as Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and Chartered Engineer (CEng) according to their qualification level and functions.

“A plumber is not required to have any particular qualifications but … might not be competent to work on the heat source or the high pressure parts of a system.”

Correct – a plumber must be qualified to work on unvented hot water systems. This is the type where your hot water cylinder is fed directly off the water mains. It will have have a pressure reducing valve in line with the cold feed, a pressure relief valve discharging into a tundish and usually a separate steel expansion vessel about the size of a beach ball.

Obviously, if it is not installed correctly or any of the safety components are missing or defective, there is a risk of the hot water cylinder exploding and shooting scalding water everywhere.

Thank you Alfa, .John and Em. I don’t think my father would have survived another night if I hadn’t arrived when I did. I ushered him to his bed and switched on his electric blanket while I lit a coal fire to heat the room until British Gas arrived.

Last year I had about 3 quotes for a replacement boiler, one was a plumber who was recommended by a relative who installed his boiler. He came to the house took a few notes and promised to send me a quote. I think I must have appeared a little too inquisitive because .i never heard from him again.

I would advise anyone to make sure a plumber is Gas Safe registered before carrying out any repairs to your gas boiler, unless you have some knowledge of boilers and their parts.

The Gas Safe Register allows you to search for a local gas engineer and to check that they are registered from their licence number: https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk I am using a company where both father and son are qualified and live at the same address.

The only time I have used a Which? Trusted Trader to service a boiler, they had to postpone the visit and when they did turn up spent half the time answering phone calls on their mobile phone. Maybe it was an off-day.

Beryl – Vulnerable people like your father could have been registered for priority treatment by British Gas: https://www.britishgas.co.uk/Priority-Service-Register

It’s worth getting advice on the main weaknesses of different boilers from those who service them. Em’s mention of the expansion vessel reminds me of a post by Duncan Lucas, where he said the whole boiler had to be removed from the wall to replace this part. Expansion vessels can fail in any pressurised system, but with most boilers they are much easier to replace, or so I have been told.

No need for heating today. We have blue skies and brilliant sunshine. I have just had a call from an old school friend whose boiler has died. He pays for comprehensive insurance cover of his heating system, plumbing, electrical system and drains. It does not always work well and he told me that when he reported a leaking radiator, Dyno-Rod turned up. Nevertheless, I expect his boiler will be fixed sooner than mine.

Thanks for the link Wavechange, a vital piece of information at this time, the busiest for heating engineers as boilers are being switched on after a long period of dormancy. I am keeping my fingers crossed my old boiler will last the winter.

I would have thought most people would keep their boilers on all year round to supply their hot water? I do.

There are various reasons why a system can produce hot water but does not heat the radiators when the heating is turned on, which is why it is recommended to test the heating occasionally during the warmer months. In my case a stuck diverter valve would cause that problem.

Beryl – It’s not just British Gas that has a priority services register: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/consumers/household-gas-and-electricity-guide/extra-help-energy-services/priority-services-register Unless you have been told otherwise, parts are often still available for old boilers. I’m fairly sure that my old boiler will be fixed at the first visit.

A friend who has rental properties rang last night and we were discussing boilers. Apparently some newer models automatically run a short self-test periodically when the heating is off for the summer to help ensure that the system will function when the heating is needed again.

Malcolm I set the programmer to heat the water only during the summer months. Switching the CH back on in the autumn often causes any weaknesses in the system to malfunction, which is the reason why switching the heating on periodically for a few minutes during the summer keeps the system circulating.

The main reason for heating engineers being in short supply around September/October time is because people often don’t carry out this small procedure.

Malcolm said I would have thought most people would keep their boilers on all year round to supply their hot water? I do.

Up until last year, we always used cheap-rate electric to heat the water tank in the summer months as it seemed to work out cheaper. Then we had a new gas boiler.

The last 2 years we have used gas to heat the water tank and can’t see any noticeable difference in cost. One hour in the morning usually supplies our needs and we take readings daily.

The actual costs of water heating will depend on the system, but heating with a gas boiler should be significantly cheaper than using electricity. It certainly is for me.

I agree. I also have an electric immersion heater as a backup but hardly use it as works out more expensive than gas.

Which boiler do you have, Beryl, and why were you planning to replace it last year?

It’s a Glow Worm Hideaway Wavechange, installed about 1992 after I moved here. Its been serviced every year since. I had a few problems with it that kept recurring after it was serviced with the thermocouple and banging noises so I changed to a new heating engineer company and it’s been fine ever since.

I thought of changing it in the autumn last year due to its age and to avoid being left without heating for 3 days during the winter, but changed my mind due to becoming unwell so opted for its usual service and it’s still going.

I believe the new boilers have a shorter life span so will probably keep it until it expires (hopefully after I do) or until I decide on a new kitchen.

Please do the new kitchen instead of expiring, Beryl.
You seem to have done well with your Glow Worm. Changing it unnecessarily might save gas costs as the new boiler should be more efficient, but I’d weigh those savings against the cost of a new installation – how long the pay back would be.

Beryl – I remember you mentioned that you had a Hideaway before. is an under-counter gas boiler introduced in 1985. It will have a cast iron heat exchanger and is a very simple design with a pilot light. The pilot light heats a thermocouple and if the thermocouple fails the pilot won’t stay alight. It’s best to have these replaced every 5 years to avoid problems – they cost about £10. It should be a very simple job that can be done during the annual service. There is a fan but these often give warning before they fail, and other components should be very reliable.

Banging noises can be caused by a boiler overheating and the second service chap may have corrected that. Some noise is common when a boiler is heating-up from cold.

I suggest holding on to your present boiler if it is working well and replacing it if you update the kitchen.

Malcolm I would love to change my kitchen but it would be too risky at the moment so I am hoping the boiler lasts for a while longer and Wavechange it is still the same boiler as before, and thanks, I now have something to talk about when the engineer comes to service it 🙂

I have just bought a new FF to replace the old integrated one that came with the kitchen which is nearly as old as the boiler, I needed a 50/50 split with equal freezer/fridge space so choice was limited, but one came up quite suddenly that I couldn’t see on Which Best Buy that suited all my requirements; the Beko Harvestfresh, the same company as my old one. Frost free, light technology inside the crisper draw claims to mimic natural 24 hour cycle of the sun and preserves vitamins in fruit and veg for up to 5 days, (yet to be tested), automatic defrost, can be kept in garage or outbuilding if outside temperature drops as low as -15C, door open alarm, wire rack for bottles, aluminium laminate backing, downside being only A+ energy efficiency, I assume due to its larger freezer compartment, delivered next day from JL.

It sold out very quickly at JL and is now out of stock, but it was included in the Daily Telegraph recent top ten FF buys.

I am happy with my Beko freezer, which I bought so that I could keep in the garage. I suggest you ring Beko to register the product so that you will get to know about recalls. If you use their online form I expect you will receive a call from Domestic & General because Beko will pass on your phone number as they did shortly after I registered mine. 🙁

I’m preparing a mental list of regularly used products that are over 20 years old. Vynor has a microwave (and something else), Derek and Kate Bevan have old washing machines and I have a microwave and vacuum cleaner. Beryl’s boiler has joined the list.

I have yet to register it and the label is still stuck on the door as a reminder, so I won’t forget.

It’s rewarding to know all the efforts by Which? and the Convo Team input with regard to FF safety are now being acknowledged and acted upon, and a big pat on the back is due for everyone whose contribution has assured consumers can sleep in their beds at night, safe in the knowledge that their FF will not burn out of control before they can get to it.

Which? currently list 476 fridge-freezers with non-flammable backs but there are still 28 ones with a warning because they are flammable, the most common brand being Hotpoint.

The London Fire Bridge discovered the problem in 2012 but it was not until 2018 when Which? reported on its own tests that the problem was identified.

It’s good to see Which? get some credit round here, Beryl. Maybe it’s time for Which? to push for an end to the sale of the appliances (freezers and fridges as well as FF) with flammable backs.

My boiler was due to be fixed this afternoon but the plumber/gas engineer called yesterday to say that his son would come and check which fan was needed. He came and took photos and coaxed the fan into life and it’s good to have the boiler working again, albeit with a noisy bearing. A new fan has been purchased and will be fitted tomorrow morning.

I wonder how many products that are over 20 years old can be repaired with off the shelf parts from a local supplier.

Glad you are warm and comfortable again. Hope the new fan cures all the problems. I have a diverter valve that decides for itself whether to give me hot water or whether to heat radiators when the tap is turned on. However, since most radiators are missing and there’s a new boiler to cope with new demands, this remains unfixed. I have been getting dirty water through the tap for some time and this clogs the shower and marks the lavatory pan. It probably stuck the diverter valve too. The water seems good to drink and the black sediment appears to be a gradual event over a number of weeks. I might chat to the builders about this when I next see them.

Thanks Vynor. A little WD40 did the trick and the fan motor bearings are no longer as noisy. Hopefully a new fan will restore quiet operation.

The water circulated from your boiler (sometimes called system water) through the diverter valve (a 3-port motorised valve) to the radiators and/or the heat exchanger coil in the hot water system should not mix with your hot and cold tap water system. The system water can be dirty if there is insufficient corrosion inhibitor and could cause problems with the diverter. If there is dirt in the shower head, toilet and taps it is likely that this is coming from the cold water tank in the loft, either through the cold or hot water system. The plumber will know the reason. I prefer systems where the cold water comes from the rising main.

I always keep a can of WD40 in the garage to lubricate almost anything, but prefer the ptfe version on tools as it leaves a dry film. Good on circular saws, sharpened router bits and when cleaning up tools, and anything that has become stiff or seized. My old solid fuel boiler fan used to seize up once a year as it got old; dismantling it and spraying the bearings brought it back to life.

When I was young the magic fluid was Plus Gas in a squirty can but I don’t see that on display these days. I see it is still available from an online look. I wonder how all these products compare?

To end the tale of my boiler (I hope), the fan has been replaced with a Baxi part (Potterton and Baxi are now part of BDR Thermea I have discovered) at a cost of £259.20, which is less than I expected considering that collecting the spare involved a round trip of 20 miles. The new fan is very quiet and I am having a housewarming.

WD40 is volatile and will only temporarily lubricate (plain) motor bearings, so should be followed by light oil for long-lasting lubrication.

PlusGas is often claimed to be more effective than WD40 as a penetrating oil and it certainly has its enthusiasts, but I don’t have a lot to do with rusty machinery. My father had some graphited penetrating oil named Releasall which was very effective.

Thanks for the link Malcolm. It’s interesting to note that Vaillant have overtaken Worcester Bosch in Which? Best Buys scoring.

If I could locate a reliable Kitchen Company that would incorporate a new boiler in a new kitchen I may be tempted to follow in Vynors footsteps and take to the water until it’s all done and dusted!

Good to know Wavechange is warm again after nearly a weeks wait confined to his conservatory with an electric heater as his only means of comfort 🙂

However did we survive without central heating? My family home had a cold fire and no insulation. As soon as it died down at bedtime in winter the temperature dropped like a stone. Jack Frost left ice on the onside of the windows. So it was blankets and eiderdown and body heat – sometimes a hot water bottle – that got the bed tolerable. But we survived.

Beryl – The weather was mild and I had a couple of fan heaters as well as my electric radiator. I used one to heat the bathroom for a short period, before removing it and having a shower. At present I would prefer a Vaillant boiler because they are available with stainless steel heat exchangers that are likely to be more durable than the aluminium ones used by most manufacturers.

I don’t suppose you meant ‘cold fire’, Malcolm, unless your family were trying to save money!

Well spotted. Mind you it didn’t put out much heat so we huddled round it.

When I was a young child I had a cold fire in my bedroom, but it was ready to light if it was very cold or if I was ill. At other times I used a two-bar electric fire that would not comply with current British standards, not least because a child could poke their fingers through the grille and maybe electrocute themselves. Somehow we survived.

Same here. And we didn’t survive – or, at least, only the survivors did. Childhood mortality was higher, age related illness higher and more people died of cold. In the early ’50s, for example, excess winter deaths were as high as 110,000.

”Conclusion
There is a weak but significant relationship between temperature and mortality in both the summer and winter months. While in winter mortality does increase as it gets colder, winter mortality is variable and high mortality can occur on relatively mild days. Similarly, in the summer high temperatures are often associated with relatively increased mortality, but a single hot day does not always lead to excess deaths. Daily mortality cannot be predicted from temperature alone: the prevalence of influenza in winter and factors such as air pollution in summer should also be considered.

From the link provided by Ian: “The EWM index for respiratory diseases in 2017 to 2018 was statistically significantly higher in all years since 2000 to 2001. Of these excess respiratory deaths, pneumonia (specifically ICD-10 code J18) and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (specifically ICD-10 code J44) accounted for the largest proportions. The prominence of pneumonia is likely related to the relationship between EWM and a range of bacterial and viral respiratory pathogens including influenza.”

Inadequate heating, which was common in the past. is an established health risk for those with respiratory diseases. Until the Clean Air Act of 1956 and the introduction of smokeless zones, residential areas were polluted, largely as a result of burning coal. Many more people smoked in these days and/or had no adequate protection from occupational exposure to dust, etc., resulting in respiratory problems and premature death. These problems are now much better understood and so is the treatment of respiratory disease in the home and in hospital.

Malcolm: there are also graphs in that document which highlight the decline in EWM since 1950 and, if I had to guess, would fit well with the rise in heating in homes. Of course, it’s not a simple subject and there are numerous aspects, such as the use of paraffin heaters, which could have been a part of the problem. But on balance I think it’s fair to say better heating saves lives.

There are also stats (if I can find them) that highlight the health benefits and contribution towards longevity that living in a tropical or sub-tropical climate bestow.

Inadequate heating can exacerbate respiratory problems, and hence lead to increased mortality. It is commonly associated with living in an unhealthy environment due to inadequate ventilation, mould spores, chemical pollutants and even a rise in carbon dioxide level in modern housing with doors and windows that seal effectively. Earlier generations had some permanent ventilation as a result of draughty wooden sash windows.

Ian mentions paraffin heaters, which would have been unflued and would add moisture to the atmosphere, in the same way that gas hobs and ovens still do today. I have not seen one in use for about 50 years, though they were followed by more powerful unflued bottled gas heaters, which can still be found in small shops.

Modern windows can usually be locked with a small ventilation gap left open or with the trickle vents open but people will not do so for fear of letting heat escape or a dislike of draughts, but that is not the best practice.

Until the 1950’s, houses and flats were routinely built with airbricks or ventilators at upper levels to improve airflow; the introduction of tongued-&-grooved or sheet chipboard flooring with wall-to-wall carpeting also reduced the breathability and healthiness of homes.

Friends of ours thought it perfectly acceptable to run a calor gas unflued heater in their cafe. We see deaths on an annual basis, here, from caravanners who don’t realise the dangers. Mind you, at the moment we’re seeing a death per week from walkers slipping and falling.

My quote above
https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/the-lobby-2/#comment-1608290
was simply taken from the link provided.

Unflued gas heaters are still available and Calor uses an ‘oxygen depletion system’ to shut them down if necessary. Compact unflued catalytic heaters were used in caravans at one stage but there are room-sealed heaters these days. There is more risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in a confined space.

As John has said, people often block off ventilation, and that includes unused chimneys in homes that still have them.

Elsewhere we have discussed toxic chemicals from furnishings etc. accumulating, which is more of a problem now than fifty years ago.

Excessive heat and cold is regulated by the vascular system which is all part of the ageing process. The heart undergoes a huge Increase in blood flow to the skin in order to cool ourselves which apparently is 20 times as much as in cooler weather, putting an enormous strain on the heart which is why excessive heat kills more people in their 80’s.

Human skin responds rapidly and precisely to changes in both heat and cold, determined by a small molecule nitric oxide (NO) made in the cells that line the blood vessels which plays a big role in vascular health in general. As we age the small vessels in our skin dilate less when heated and constrict less when we’re cooled.

To read more on this interesting subject, log into: http://www.news.psu.edu – Hot and Cold of Growing Old.

A news item:

Amazon Prime Day date announced: 12 things to know before you buy
Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/09/amazon-prime-day-date-announced-12-things-to-know-before-you-buy/ – Which?

It’s good to see a warning about the risk of unwittingly buying dangerous products from Marketplace traders but perhaps that should appear further up the list than warning about fake reviews.

malcolm r says:
28 September 2020

This was a more moderate news item than the advertising given to Amazon over the last couple of years.

I would like to see Amazon Market Place and Fulfilled by Amazon labelled by Which? as “Don’t buys” simply because they are riddled with fake and dangerous products with no controls.

Welcome to World Heart Day, the day in 1940 when the first US merchant ship commanded by a black captain was launched at Wilmington Delaware and the day in 1950 a telephone Answering Machine was created by Bell Laboratories

Do you need space? Join NASA!

There are approximately 45 seconds between “I’ll make us an omelette” and “We’re having scrambled eggs.

I threw a boomerang away many years ago. I now live in constant fear.

If it was more recent you could have claimed under the Consumer Rights Act, but now you have no comeback.

Those who are staying indoors during the coronavirus problem are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because of lack of exposure to sun: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/09/vitamin-d-how-much-should-you-take-and-whos-most-at-risk/

Sun? When did that appear? I have been working outside almost everyday this last five days and am thoroughly wet through! There was a brief flash of sunshine yesterday afternoon which I managed to catch. I prostrated myself on the patio to absorb all available rays raising each limb in turn in the manner of a lizard.

Sorry John. It has been a brilliant day here. I wish I could send you some of our sunshine.

Isn’t it a sloth that does that?
I have never taken vitamin D in the winter – or any other time – and as far as I know am reasonably healthy, so maybe I’m a mutant?

It is believed that a fair proportion of the population produce/ingest insufficient vitamin D, particularly between October and March, yet they may not have symptoms. You should have been taking a vitamin D supplement from the age of 65 if following the NHS recommendation. Since 2016 the advice has changed and we are all recommended to take vitamin D, particularly in the winter months (unless pregnant). I just take a cod liver oil capsule.

You may remember a long discussion about vitamin D after Patrick Taylor had been tested privately, which confirmed his suspicion that his vitamin D level was below the reference range.

Welcome to Thunderbirds Day, the day in 1791 of Mozart’s Magic Flute’s first performance, and the day in 1878 when the Great Flood hit New Zealand’s South Island. At the height of this flood, more than 5,700 cubic metres of water poured down the lower reaches of the river near the coast every second.

DerekP says:
30 September 2020

FAB

I got fired from my job as a chef for stealing kitchen equipment. It’s a whisk I was willing to take.

I might have known if you were making stollen.