There are loads of things we take for granted.
Hot water, heating at the flick of a switch, the simplicity of cooking a pan of pasta.
On Monday evening my carbon monoxide alarm went off.
There was a minor blip last week when it was beeping annoyingly but quietly. It was an old unit so I somewhat distrusted its reading. Besides when I fiddled around with it the noise stopped. To be on the safe side I left the back door open for a while and turned off the boiler.
Content there was no real danger we went to bed.
BUT I did resolve to buy a new detector.
Typically I ended up buying two – well a double pack was cheaper! A friend fitted them by my two gas appliances – boiler and Aga (yes I know that makes me posh, at least in the circles I mix in.)
The unseasonably warm weather of last week has suddenly disappeared leaving a chill in the air and Monday night thankfully the heating kicked in.
Twenty minutes later there was beeping – a very loud BEEPING – a proper alarm.
Now the boiler is out the back in a little utility area next to the downstairs loo and there is a big heavy door separating it from the rest of the house. I have to tell you all the facts.
Once more I opened the back door to get the fresh air flowing and flicked the boiler off again. The utility was pretty steamy; it gets like that when it is a misty day which is probably the real problem!
Anyway the noise stopped so youngest son and I want back to our particularly HARD jigsaw puzzle we’d foolishly started.
Then for no reason the alarm started up AGAIN. LOUD AND VERY NOISY.
The only thing to do was ring and report a gas leak. This now fell into the “serious problem” category.
Carbon monoxide the silent killer – youngest son was doing impressions of choking to death and collapsing on the dining room floor.
“We’ll have someone with you within 2 hours. Just stay away from the appliance and maybe get some ventilation.”
Rewind a few years back when this happened before. We were told to evacuate the house, open all the doors and windows and not switch on anything electrical.
I remember sitting on the doorstep in a panic, Andrew was typically away. He told me when he rang just how stupid I was – remember he worked in the gas industry, out in the middle of the North Sea. To him domestic gas supply was such a miniscule amount it wouldn’t cause any major problems.
Maybe that is why this time I kept so calm and didn’t call for re-enforcements until I absolutely had to. Oh I’d been on the phone to friends to keep them informed; it’s too scary when nobody at all knows what’s happening to you.
Well the man turned up – eventually, he did have to ring to ask where the house was. Next time I’m having a house with a number! I had to go and wait at the top of the drive for him.
My job is just to “make it safe” he announced. All he needed was a cape and to be wearing his underpants on the outside of his trousers!
“Make it safe” I already knew from experience meant “turn the gas off”, although he did something else, fiddled about a bit, but he didn’t even have a carbon monoxide detector to check the readings. Then he asked me stupid questions about what kind of noise the alarm was making and which lights were flashing implying I may have called him out unnecessarily.
The noise had been driving me mad so I had taken out the battery before he arrived and of course when we replaced it there was no alarm.
By this time having taken in the implications of having no gas, no heating, no Aga, no hot water, I was getting a bit frazzled. So I told him I didn’t like being treated like I was blonde, the alarm was the alarm, not the noise to replace the battery, it was brand new.
I resent being treated like an idiot, a silly little girl, “making safe” means “turning off” don’t dress it up to sound heroic and talk to me like I at least have an ounce of common sense.
Yes I had my grumpy head on – can’t I blame it on carbon monoxide fumes?
Anyway he left me with a bit of paperwork having to call another branch of the gas chain the next day – is this the results of privatisation? That one man can turn off your gas but you need another to check things out and re-establish supply.
So the next day I called British Gas, who I have a service contract with and they said they would send someone out.
“Can we make it an afternoon appointment?” I was taking youngest son and friends to the cinema and it was all arranged. Obviously you can mess about with my own schedule as much as you like – it is my lot in life – but when it impinges on the kids that’s another matter.
I was booked in for after 1 but before 6.
So we traipsed back from the cinema, forgoing the second part of the trip, lunch at Burger King, in plenty of time for the engineer to call.
Only he, or she (we have a fantastic female British Gas engineer around here) hadn’t arrived by 4 so I decided to chase it.
I was told the engineer was on their way but if no one calls by six to ring back.
Which I did, then a supervisor rang me back to say someone would be here tomorrow – which is now today, between 8 and 10.
It’s now twenty to nine and I have to pick oldest son up in twenty minutes from his school trip.
Once more I am stuck, caught out, balancing the house and the family. Running round like a headless chicken and that’s only to keep warm.
As I said at the beginning we take a lot for granted, assuming things will work at the flick of a switch and if not thinking we have a right to have someone here now to fix it.
Why has it taken me so long to discover that actually unpleasant things happen every day to ordinary people? The really good stuff happens to very few.
I don’t EXPECT the good stuff now.
I am officially a pessimist but at the same time thankful I at least have a working kettle!
And very thankful that oldest son is safely on his way home.
Off to pick him up now and if the gas man calls...well he will just have to wait!