Sometimes you get a feeling right at the start that a job's going to go tits-up...
It all started with the letter from M1 Gas Alliance. Dated 03/12/2009, it told of the impending gas supply interruption due to the improvement of the gas main on the estate. "We plan to start work between 07/12/2009 and 11/12/2009", it said. Maybe it would have been better to deliver said letter a tad earlier than 10/12/2009 then.
Since then road-crew have dug holes all around the Close and have festooned the place with miles of plastic fencing. They've worked fast and with due consideration for the residents. No problem there.
Yesterday (Tuesday) was the day when they would shove their little yellow pipe through the old steelie that stretches from the road, under the garden, under the footings and into our meter. We were told at 08:30 that this would happen and that someone would have to be in to allow access, and sure enough the little yellow pipe did make it into the house... at about 16:30. So that's only eight hours of me sat around doing sweet Fanny Adams.
That phase ended with the capping of the incoming pipe, the complete removal of the meter and the assurance that a qualified gas fitter would arrive within the hour to reconnect the meter and the supply, to test the system and to restart our appliances. Now that sounded like a good plan. As the ground crew departed for the pub, two fitters arrived and worked their way around the Close.
17:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for a quick scan and noted that one fitter was three houses away. I figured that he was busy so I didn't trouble him.
18:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for another quick scan and noted that he was one house away. We would be next.
19:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for a yet another quick scan and noted that he and his mate were nowhere to be seen. They must be having trouble somewhere, I assumed. They were still about, though, as their van was still parked next to our house.
20:30 arrived sans fitter. I went outside for a yet another quick scan only to be told by a neighbour that the fitters had both finished and gone off in a different van... just after 18:30.
CUE THE RANT/RAGE/ANGST/EXPLETIVES
20:50 was when I had calmed down enough to restrict the language to no worse than a string of fecks liberally peppered with ba5tards and a few tw@ts. During this slack period I phoned the number printed in two places on the letter. 01162 574540. Imagine my glee when I found that I'd just phoned Direct Line Insurance. Undeterred, I dialled again and got the same message.
CUE THE RANT/RAGE/ANGST/EXPLETIVES AGAIN
I found out later that when they'd shut their office yesterday, the last one out had set the phone to redirect to the wrong number. Doh!
21:00 was when I called the emergency number. The kind folk there gave me a sensible number for National Grid, so I dialled that and told them of the situation. They arranged for a fitter to attend within the next four hours.
22:00ish and the fitter arrived. He fitted the meter and eventually turned on the gas supply. All of the appliances worked fine so I thanked him and let him go. We put the fire and the central heating on to warm the house, and sat back, relieved that it was all fixed.
23:00ish - that's when I started to smell gas. The meter cupboard stank of it.
CUE THE RANT/RAGE/ANGST/EXPLETIVES YET AGAIN
I called National Grid again and they promised me a fitter within the hour, as this time the situation was classed as an emergency. He turned up at 23:45, it was the same bloke that had fitted the meter. At first he couldn't detect the leak, but we could both smell it. After repiping and then remounting the meter he found the leak, some way along the downstream pipework, in his opinion caused during the initial removal of the meter and hence the responsibility of the road-crew. He had no choice but to turn off the supply, cap the meter and place a warning on it which effectively says "If you use this you'll all burn in hell".
So now it's 01:45 (Wednesday) and we've no gas/heating/hot water. Again.
At 08:00 this morning the road-crew will be back to disconnect our spur from the old main and to connect it to the new one.
I really don't fancy the chances of the first one of them to knock on my door.