It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one electrical item in your house goes wrong, almost as soon as it is fixed, another one decides to blow up. And we also all know that bad things come in threes, which makes me wonder: Nigel, Donald…..????
Six months ago my laptop developed a fault. It was fixed under warranty as it was less than a year old and has been fine for about three months. It now has the same fault; it is something of a lemon. The company who made it and the company who sold it to me have said that it is nothing to do with them and there is nothing to see here. They have even deigned to tell me that the law does not apply, the latter saying that this is because they have excluded the law in their terms and conditions. I wonder how that logic would apply to, say, the law of murder? There is nothing like a red rag to a bull more than those who don’t know the law trying to argue the law with a lawyer. I had already referred the company who sold me the laptop to the specific section of the statute that applies and explained why I believe that it applies, but they don’t want to read that because computer says no. I have therefore explained it to them again in shorter words and I am waiting to hear.
Meanwhile I have an expensive but useless laptop that cost £1,000 eighteen months ago and they want £750 to fix. I am typing this on a laptop so old that I have finished typing the sentence before it actually shows on the screen – it’s driving me nuts.
Three weeks ago our heating and hot water went kaput. It was the first day of the first cold snap of this Winter, which you may remember because some of the papers were confidently predicting ten feet of snow and a White Christmas.
Some minor electrical work had been carried out at our house earlier in the day which was supposed to involve changing light bulbs and the observation of bare wires outside together with a discussion as to what best to do with them. It also seemed to involve opening and shutting lots of cupboards, pulling knobs, tweaking buttons and generally having a good furtle around.
Four hours later, the boiler tried to fire up and our lights and heating went out. We were plunged into darkness and it was already pretty cold. Man of the House was on it. He strode around the house with manly equipment like a wrench and a big torch. The kids ran around excitedly with a less impressive torch and started asking for candles and matches. About half an hour later, Man of the House managed to get the lights back on. He then went into the garden with his mobile ‘phone to take manly counsel as to how to get the heating and hot water back on. Meanwhile, I decided to observe the boiler and take note of the manufacturer. I got on my ‘phone and googled them. Man of the House returned and shoo-ed me out of the way so he could have some space in which to huff and puff. I retired to the lounge and telephoned the helpline that I had googled. I spoke to a very helpful lady and explained the problem. She said that they could get an engineer out in less than forty eight hours; I said that would be great.
So two days later we still had no heating or hot water and when the engineer arrived I could have kissed him. He got the hot water working again and also established the reason for the problem in the first place; the electrics for the heating had fused. This had been caused by a valve for the underfloor heating being knocked, said valve then leaked onto the electrics, and the electrics then took exception to getting wet, and shorted out. Interesting. A remarkable coincidence. The boiler engineer decided that it was probably safer to disconnect all electricity to that system until it was deemed safe again by a heating engineer. So no heating for a fortnight until a heating engineer could come out. If I could have kissed the boiler engineer, the poor heating engineer must have feared for his life when he came to fix the heating.
A week after a heating engineer was last seen running full pelt down my road and screaming, clearly feeling left out, my washing machine decided to make a passive aggressive cry for attention. It decided that it would wash clothes, but then refuse to drain. I therefore needed to drain it manually, which involved me positioning pretty much every pot in my kitchen under the hose and then emptying the water in the sink. If having released the door, I was to have the temerity to wish to spin the clothes to get the water out rather than use a mangle, it was necessary to repeat the performance with the pots.
This was mildly annoying but okay as a system until I managed to knock one of the pots all over me and the floor and in the process, kick the one under the hose out of the way. So there I was, standing in my underwear mopping the floor. A terrifying vision in the dark. But broad daylight? Just not necessary for anyone to risk having to see that. I decided that it was time to telephone a washing machine engineer.
After a few minutes conversation, it was established by the washing machine engineer that the pump had gone. I know that the company who had made the washing machine ceased to be over four years ago and advised the washing machine engineer of the same. “You’re buggered then, love.” Nothing like someone who gets straight to the point. I thanked him for his help and his time.
So there are my three things. I was feeling irked about them happening, and happening just before Christmas. The injustice of large companies ignoring the law because they think they can is guaranteed to get my blood pressure up. And the expense of having what most of us consider to be essential household items fixed before Christmas is not ideal. Then I got a letter from Crisis in the post. As I opened it in my lovely warm kitchen in my lovely warm home, with a hot coffee next to me, I decided that it was more than time for me to shut the fuck up.
If you would like to find out more about Crisis and support their work this Christmas, follow this link: http://www.crisis.org.uk
Photograph: Bench in Winter by Petr Kratochvil