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Friday, 26 May 2017

Into the Wild Open Spaces

You know about Pixie and Dixie, our two tabby kittens.

For almost 6 months these "Children of the Revolution" have been locked up. Look you don't allow two she cats out onto the turf unless they've had their "bits and bobs" removed and there's zero chance of some randy tom putting them "Up the Junction".

At the end of April they went to the Vets to have their lineage cut short. We felt real heels but it had to be done. It took a while to catch them but when we did they came along quietly.

At the Vets we were given tranquillisers to prepare us for the inevitable. After endless reassurances that our babies would come to no harm we reluctantly left them with a very helpful nurse.

The next day we were confronted by two little Elizabethan ruffs. They looked so sweet! Our guilt grew as these tiny bundles of joy nodded their way around the house. They bumped into everything, spent hours scratching their plastic ruffs and took a while figuring out how to get their faces into their food bowls.

They are so bright. In no time at all, it was if the ruffs weren't there. We, however, felt guilty and so we decided that instead of ruffs to prevent them from opening up their stitches we'd dress them in "Onesies". So we bought baby's "Onesies" from Sainsbury's and  tailored them for two small tabbies. It didn't work. They looked awful and the clothes didn't fit. Think Donovan and "Top of the Pops" circa 1965.

Then they were given the all clear. The stitches were fine, they were healing perfectly and at last the little blighters could be unleashed on an unsuspecting back garden. Except we were so nervous about letting our little treasures out into the wild open spaces.

We bought them harnesses and leads. That would work wouldn't it. We'd let them out into the garden on leads. No chance of them bounding off into infinity and beyond. At the beginning of this week we tried to get our little bundles of joy dressed up in their harnesses and leads. Dixie was fine. She took to it like a fish to water. She was tentative - wouldn't you be - but she knew that outside meant unlimited opportunities to catch flies.

Pixie would have none of it. The sight of a harness had her flying upstairs, so in the end we took the plunge, left open the back door and prayed. They were out like a shot. Scampering all over the garden, even Ginja the Ninja joined in chasing the kittens in and out of the pots and shrubs.

They are a delight. They are so free, so adventurous and so tired after 14 hours haring around the place, eating more flies than the Lord of the Flies knew existed.

We have to monitor their progress as do all good, concerned  parents, so one of us is there making sure that should they climb a tree we tell them to get down. Their joy is tinged with our sadness. We know that their kitten days are drawing to a close.

At the moment I have two little gems completely zonked out at my feet.

Monday, 24 April 2017

“This Beard Is for Siobhan”

Walthamstow log: 24th April 2017:16:00hrs

We'd been told that the hipster tide had peaked and now was receding: leaving the flotsam and jetsam of funny beards, tweed waistcoats and brown brogues stranded on the High Street. In our Post Brexit, Pre Teresa Tyranny world we thought we were safe from newly opened artisan pizza parlours, craft beer outlets and hand baked slow raised rye and  bacterial leavening breads.

It was a false dawn; that hipster tide was simply taking a breather. It has found renewed vigour and is this very instant lapping against the portals of the Coidan household. I'm talking beards. I'm talking many beards, beards of all shapes and sizes. Fool that I was to believe that Good Ole King Gillette had vanquished the hirsute visages that had populated every TV screen, every style mag and high end hang out. Not at all.

In the good old days you were able to go into your local and find a place to lean against the bar and sup your pint with ample breathing space between you and the next imbiber. Not anymore. Now entering your local is like discovering that your horse hair mattress has sprung a leak. You can't turn around without finding yourself with a face full of someone else's beard. Our pub has banned frothy beer and the wringing out of beards more than once of an evening. Some evenings you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd happened upon a ZZTops' or Demon Hunter's Beard convention.

This beardiness is contagious: even those of us used to a regular wet shave with brush and soap bowl have been struck down by the beardy lurgy. I...have...grown...face fungus. I know, it took a lot to spit out that. I have a beard! It was an accident - honest. At the time I switched to a new shaving cream my face became sore. I thought it might be the change in routine so I stopped shaving and continued stopping until I had quite a face full of hair. I rather liked the badger white stripe down the middle of my chin - made me look grizzled but in a nice way.

The beard kept growing and I liked the extra 20 minutes in bed not shaving every morning gave me. The missus was quite restrained, only infrequently commenting on the remains of meals stuck in my beard or my passing resemblance to a walrus. I think it was last Friday at a neighbour's wedding reception at our local - the one infested with beards - I decided that something had to be done with my bewhiskered phizog. The bridegroom had had his brush trimmed and it looked quite fetching.

So this morning saw me popping along to Walthamstow's own "man shop" - The Cove to have a beard trimming. The missus thinks I now look quite respectable - which can't be bad can it?

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

"Jumpin' Jack Flash, It's a Gas, Gas, Gas."

I'm not very good with reality. I'm pretty hopeless when it comes to material, hard, physical things - like gas boilers. Or more precisely our combi boiler.

It was installed when combinations were all the rage. Bit like ceramic washers and electric car windows. You had to have them if you were middle class and pensionable. Our boiler has done us well for...we don't exactly remember when we bought it. If I had my old Quicken money management software I could tell you - except moving to a new computer and new Windows put an end to that.

Anyway we have it annually serviced - recently by British Gas (BG). I can't say they're the best. You see three years ago we had our kitchen "refreshed", that is we kept the carcases and replaced the doors etc: as well as replacing all the failing appliances. We decided to hide our combi boiler behind an attractive cupboard.

The BG service took place just after the boiler was boxed in. The engineer checked out the boiler and gave it a clean bill of health. It went wrong the next day.  The next engineer said he couldn't do anything because he couldn't get to the boiler because of its covering. I explained that it had been checked and cleared by a colleague from the self same firm. I produced the pro-forma I had been handed by the previous engineer. Everything ticked as it should be.

I can't recall exactly what the engineer said about his work mate's competence and knowledge of boilers. We had to dismantle the boiler's covering. The engineer came back and gave the old boiler a thorough going over and a clean bill of health. We reinstated the boiler's modesty.

This year it hasn't been well. First, it got the wind. Regularly the pressure gauge swung into the "if you don't let me fart I'm going to explode" range. With an Allan key I slowly release the pressure and all was well until the next time. Then, it began to suffer from pressure starvation. The hot water system would register zero pressure. There was no pressure where there ought to be some. Initially the loss of pressure was gradual but lately it would go from hero to zero in no time at all. Something was wrong.

I always think the worst of any situation. It's my defence mechanism.  I figure out what the worse that can happen and convince myself that's what will happen. When, inevitably, it does I've been forearmed. A propos the boiler I imagined we'd a major leak somewhere in the house, probably the upstairs bedroom and water had soaked the joists and what with wet rot and condensation the bed would plummet into the living room. Then my brain kicked in. Previously, the pressure reading had increased, now it had decreased - leaks don't act like that. There must be something wrong with a valve - or we'd need a new boiler. I instantly wrote down the Coidan's assets by three grand - the price of fitting a new boiler.

I called out BG, but not before the boiler's cupboard has been dismantled. They could come out the next day between 8 am and noon. The engineer arrived at 10:35, spent 10 minutes going between his van and the house and finished the work in under 2 hours but over half and hour which cost £240 - with parts and a year's guarantee.

We were overjoyed. I awoke the next day to be told by the missus that we had no hot water and the central heating was roaring away despite being switched off. I contacted BG to report this slight failure in their service standard. I recall expressly stressing that I wanted the same engineer back.

We had an afternoon window 1pm to 6 pm that day. The same engineer returned and quickly identified the fault. When you turned on the hot tap that fired up the boiler! Wires crossed or something similar. He spent considerably more time testing the system after that repair than on the first occasion.

Brilliant. Except later that evening when I turned on the hot tap there was no hot water. I was onto BG so fast. I explained the history, two call outs and still it's fucked. The Scottish sounding assistant offered me a two hour slot for Thursday - two days away. Screw the two hour slot I want someone here pronto. After being told that that was impossible and all she could offer was a two hour slot two days away, I demanded to speak to her supervisor.

I was incandescent, unlike our boiler. I again explain my gripe. I'd paid £240 and after two attempts the boiler wasn't right. What training do you give your engineers I enquired, why take money for work not done? When did you last beat your wife?  The supervisor listened patiently, explained that he couldn't give me an earlier slot. He would do if he could, but it wasn't in his gift. He'd ensure that the visits team were informed of our situation, stressing my near suicidal state and he'd ensure they'd phone me the next day (today) before nine am. I pulled myself off the ceiling, thanked him and reported the outcome to the missus. She was duly impressed by my forceful but calm insistence.I believed a small battle had been won. I mentally drafted a letter to "You and Yours" as I went into the kitchen to put the dirty plates etc in the dishwasher.

As I was pre-washing the plates I noticed that the water out of the hot water tap was getting hotter. I rushed upstairs to the bathroom. Turning on the sink and bath taps produced the same result - hot water! I went downstairs again, messed around with all the on/off combinations on the boiler. Hot water and a well tempered heating system every time.

Oh shit! I had insulted BG, their engineers, threatened to get "You and Yours" onto their case and they were going to phone me before nine in the morning to arrange an appointment. I slept surprisingly well. I woke early and watched as the clock moved towards nine. Nine came and went and no call from BG. Phew! My wife, however, pointed out that not withstanding the non call they might send out a special team to deal with our "broken" boiler.

I phoned BG, explained that the previous night I'd calmly but forcefully complained about the shoddiest workmanship I have had the misfortune to experience...and actually...I'm so sorry I was wrong...the boiler is working as it should. Hot water has never been so hot or watery. I apologised to BG, the calm and calming supervisor, the lovely young? woman who took my call and most of all to the engineer who I branded as incompetent and witless. "That alright Sir, I've looked on your record there's nothing there about you being called this morning. Have a good day. Is there anything else  I can help you with?"

My mate's advice. "I'd use a local bloke" !!!