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Planning Retirement Online

50plus Handyman           July 2006

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The handyman column  
By Roger Runswick

Power in the garden

50plus Handyman director Roger Runswick talks about disguised rocks and other new inventions….

One of the more intriguing items that have appeared in the local DIY stores (or sheds as the trade call them) is the garden power socket in the form of a ‘rock’.

The rock conjures up many images, mostly connected with sci-fi TV dramas such as Blakes 7, with cardboard cut-out scenery. But I have an alertnative theory. I think some of the rocks were supplied to the back-room boys in the Foreign Office.

Earlier this year, our men in Moscow were accused of placing an imitation rock along side a road in Moscow. Russian reports said that four officials from the UK embassy and one Russian citizen, allegedly recruited by the British ‘secret service’, downloaded classified data from a transmitter in the rock onto palm-top computers. Hidden camera footage appears to show individuals walking up to the rock. One man (allegedly British) is caught on camera carrying the rock away.

If it hadn’t been for the trip to Focus, I would have thought the story entirely fanciful. But then I saw it, the very rock! A close inspection revealed that there was no transmitter but a nifty door which opened to reveal a power socket where one could plug in the lawn mower (or device to listen in on unguarded conversations conducted in the rockery). But more was to be revealed.

Later this year another report caught my eye, again involving electrical sockets and spies. Not the Russians this time, but the home of Malham WI in Yorkshire, the village hall.

An electrician carrying out a safety inspection found a ‘bug’ hidden in a lookalike power socket. Just why anyone had wanted to bug the WI or the hall has not been revealed, but a thought did cross my mind. Maybe the backroom boys had been practising. Perhaps they tried the bug in Yorkshire, recorded a few choruses of Jerusalem, then popped down to Focus, saw the rock, put two and two together and hey presto! Intrigue on the streets of Moscow.

Our government doesn’t comment on security matters of course so I guess we’ll never know. On a more serious note; if you are installing power in the garden make sure an RCD is used to protect the user. 240v mains cables should not be run underground unless they are armoured and buried to a safe depth e.g. two-spade depths. You may know where the cable is, but the next occupant of the property won’t.

This also applies to the recently available sockets on ‘spikes’ that come with a length of cable attached. A weatherproof socket can be fitted on the outside wall of a house, but must be RCD protected. Any external installations must be certified under Part P of the building regulations.

If you are considering installing decorative lighting in the garden, low voltage equipment is definitely worth a look at. It provides a considerable amount of light - far more than solar -and any mains power can be kept indoors, making the whole job a lot cheaper.

And finally some related trivia. The government could afford around 30 million rocks equipped with radio bugs for the same price as the NHS patient record computer system. That’s more than enough for one per UK household, and certainly sufficient to replace the one in Moscow.

Roger Runswick is a director of 50plus Handyman and a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. He can be contacted at .

Previous articles in this series:


Fixing drips and changing your taps

Can I still change my light switch?

Fitting an outside light

Pre-winter maintenance

Thinking of installing a shower?

Decorating – are you getting your money’s worth?

Estimate or quotation?

Replacing a door?

How to upgrade the lighting in your home

Creating a cloakroom and shower

Ideas for collecting and saving water

Power in the garden


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