The Gas Man Cometh (eventually)

Another year, another lockdown. Well, we knew it was coming. I didn’t expect to be in tier 4 but, never mind, it doesn’t affect me unduly.

I hope you enjoyed the holidays, whatever they brought you. My sister and brother-in-law found an imaginative way of bringing us together on Christmas Day. They erected a gazebo over their patio and decorated it with fairy lights. My brother made wooden foot plates to keep our feet warm by reducing direct contact with the cold ground and my sister lit a fire and tucked rugs around us. In this manner we sat in their garden, socially distanced from each other and eating hot turkey rolls followed by Christmas pudding. A good if chilly time was had by all.

Unfortunately, my brother, sister-in-law and I didn’t return to a warm house.

Do you know the Flanders and Swann song “The Gas Man Cometh”? I recommend it to you.

Just before Christmas, on 22 December, the gas man did come. He went to service my boiler, discovered it was unsafe and switched it off. He gave me the glad tidings that it was obsolete and so couldn’t be fixed and, by the way, the gas pipe it was connected to was the wrong diameter.

The engineer, Stefan, was very concerned about my situation and gave me two fan heaters out of his van. He then arranged for a surveyor to come straightaway and price the job for me. He even waited in his van until said surveyor, Kevin, had arrived.

Kevin was very helpful. We discussed how the pipe would make its way from the front to the back of my house. I vetoed any taking up of floorboards on the rational grounds that I don’t have any floorboards to take up. (I have laminate flooring under my carpet which wouldn’t be at all easy to lift.) In the end, we agreed that the pipe would come in at the front of the house, go round the top of the wall in my bedroom, through the spare room, and end up in the bathroom.

As I have rheumatoid arthritis I am, apparently, classed as a Category 1 customer and so the job was escalated to be done between Christmas and New Year instead of on the originally proposed date of the 5th of January.

I spent the next week wearing two layers and keeping all doors and windows shut to keep the heat in. I took to wearing fingerless gloves while I worked. I managed to get individual rooms quite warm with various forms of electric heater but still got cold moving around the house.

My brother attached a timer to the fan heater in my bedroom so at least I got up and went to bed in the warm. The bathroom was the place that didn’t heat up very well. As I don’t have an immersion heater, I also had to have an electric kettle upstairs to heat water for washing.

I don’t normally use my dishwasher very much but it really came into its own while the heating was off and I had no hot water supply. The same went for my washing machine. It could all have been much worse, and I felt I was luckier than the poor people who were flooded out over Christmas.

The gas company told me that they would install the pipes and new boiler on the 30th of December. I looked forward to this and counted down the days.

The new boiler and accompanying parts were duly delivered on the morning of the day in question. In the afternoon, an engineer appeared. He poked around a bit, declared that it was a two-man job and went away again.

He said that he would email his manager and “someone would be in touch.”

Fortunately, my family and friends persuaded me not to wait for this nebulous event. I rang the gas company the next day and, after an hour on the phone, I learnt that the non-completion of the work had never been logged onto their system. As far as they were concerned, the appointment had been kept and the job had been done. If I had waited for someone to call me, I would have still been waiting now. In the event, after I had patiently explained that the work had not even been started, I was told that the job had been re-scheduled for the 5th and 6th of January.

In other words, they would do the work on the dates when it would have been done if I had not been a so-called Category 1 customer.

On the 5th of January, an engineer named Michael arrived. I queried why there was only one of him. He told me he could do the job on his own.

What? Had I just waited a week unnecessarily? This is a question I am going to take up with the company concerned.

In fact, Michael did get help. Another engineer, James, had become free following the cancellation of his scheduled job, and so he and Michael beavered away for two days installing new gas pipes and a boiler in my house.

I am pleased to report that they worked very hard, were courteous, and took my visual impairment into account by not leaving equipment in my way and putting everything back where they had found it. They kept me informed of their progress and cleaned up brilliantly when they had finished.

By 6.30 in the evening on the 6th of January, I had heating and hot water once again.

Oh joy, oh rapture!

I had a celebratory bath and luxuriated in the warmth of a centrally heated house once again.