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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" !!!

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