The heating engineer turned up at about 2:15. The doorbell rang and I called “Hello, hello” into the entry phone, getting only an incomprehensible muttered response. I am used to people’s apparent inability to address the entry phone properly so I pressed the door-release anyway, hoping that the caller was who I thought he was.
He was. “You got a leaking radiator,” he said, more as a statement than a question. I showed him where it was.
“Where’s it leaking from?” he enquired. The phrase “I thought it would be your job to find out” was on the tip of my tongue but I swallowed the words and pointed to what I thought was the source of the water. “Oh, yes,” said he.
I had been careful not to turn the heating on, thinking that the engineer would not want to handle a hot radiator leaking boiling water. After a few minutes, however, the heat wafting from a nearby radiator told me he had turned it on himself.
After some preliminary scuffling and banging, he called to ask whether I had a low container suitable for catching water. Uh oh. I didn’t, of course, so I had to empty the round tin that once held chocolates but is now used for storing packets of tea.
“Perfect,” said he.
A bit later he enquired “Do you have a towel? For mopping up water.” Uh oh.
The idea of one of our towels being used to swab the floor did not appeal to me so I hopefully offered a floor cloth. He looked at it dubiously. “Haven’t you got a towel?” he said in the tones of one who might have added “What sort of people don’t have towels?”
I reluctantly gave him the tea towel from the kitchen which he took with the enthusiasm of one who has asked for a pound and been given a bent penny.
When at last he emerged from the bathroom, it was to ask whether I had a radiator key. A what? “OK, I’ll get one from the van, then.”
I have met this syndrome before: workmen coming to the flat to do repairs or maintenance work and asking me for tools as though they think I have a complete set of plumber’s and electrician’s tools, kept for just such occasions. Why don’t they bring their tools with them? After all, they know what the job is.
I suppose I do have some small sympathy for them. We live right on a red route, and unless they are prepared to risk a fine, they must find a parking place in the short-stay bay down the road or around the corner in the back streets where parking is nevertheless also controlled. Fetching something from the van may involve a bit of a walk.
When he returned, he was chatting loudly on his mobile. I heard him say “I got another three jobs to do before 4 o’clock.” As it was now 3 o’clock, I guess he must have left some customers unserviced.
A few minutes later, he emerged for the last time. “All done,” said he, and went blithely off, presumably to start on his next three tasks. The bathroom wasn’t in too much of a mess. Here and there were little piles of sopping wet toilet tissue, presumably having been used to mop up water. The tea towel and the floor cloth lay twisted together in a wet embrace in the corner. I soon cleared all this away.
It wasn’t until supper time that we thought to turn on the heating as by then we were feeling a little chilly. After basking in imaginary heat for a while, we realised that the radiator was still cold. Uh oh.
I first looked to see that we had actually pressed the button to switch it on. We had. The next thing was to look at the boiler’s control panel. Had he perhaps turned the heating off? No, it was still turned on but there was a red light flashing. Uh oh.
I have to twiddle the boiler controls about once a year, if that, and so, of course, I never remember what you have to do or what the various lights mean. I was contemplating a long session with the manual when I noticed something: the needle on the pressure gauge was right down on the pin. I recalled what I had been told to do about that: open the panel covering the taps, turn them on (or is it off? well, turn them, anyway) and watch the needle; then turn them off (or is it on?) when the needle is back in the green area.
I did this and put my hand optimistically on the nearest radiator. Yes! After a few seconds I could feel it was definitely becoming warm. Phew.
Right, now then, what’s a radiator key, do they sell them at Argos and should I get one…?