Katy Guest: The only thing boiling right now is my blood

Share

Autumn: season of dodgy plumbing and hellish central heating failures, close bosom-friend of the elderly boiler engineer; conspiring with him how to load and distress with spanners the kitchen already knee-deep in cold and filthy washing up water.

There's something about switching the central heating back on each autumn, as the sky darkens and the nights become chill, that brings with it an atavistic sense of failure. Summer is over, the clocks have turned back, the smell of rotting leaves is in the air and life moves inexorably on. There's no fighting it. There's nothing but carbohydrates and I'm A Celebrity between now and the winter solstice. Admit defeat and turn up the thermostat.

It's depressing enough hearing the pilot light make its heavy little whoomph as another long winter officially begins. But the day when you switch on the heating and nothing happens at all, that's when the misery really starts.

There are some areas of life and business in which it is just conceded that nothing and nobody is ever going to work. Buses will never arrive at an hour resembling the one on the timetable. Anything ordered for urgent delivery by Christmas will not turn up until February. A transaction involving a call centre must always result in a nervous breakdown. Attempting to have a boiler fixed is one of these things.

You'd think that the world of boiler menders would come alive in autumn. All summer they'll have been unwanted and uncared for, stuck on their Caribbean islands miserably sorting and re-sorting their screwdrivers. Their cold little boiler-fixing hearts ought to light up when the temperature drops, and the phones start to ring in their mansions in Dartford and Cheam. But the bizarre truth is that if you call a boiler engineer at any time after 5pm on 30 September, he responds as if you had phoned him up and asked him to lend you his granny for a spot of wife-swapping.

"You want what?" they say, menacingly. "You were hoping somebody could come round when? What do you mean, you're at work during the day? What, every day?" You can only apologise, profusely, for bothering them, and break the old promise you made to yourself that you would never again get involved with British Gas.

Getting back with British Gas is like getting back with an old boyfriend. He abused you, he broke your heart and you saw the light – but somehow you know that one day you will be so lonely and in need of support that you will end up being dragged back in by his charming ways and his promises of a one-off fee that includes VAT and parts. Better the devil you know.

This is how I found myself crying into the phone last week, as yet another call centre lost my details and a grim-faced engineer stood in my kitchen in a puddle of cold water and my tears. Five days off work, two angry bosses and 10 freezing toes later, my boiler still didn't work. It was "only a 10-minute job" to fit the part. If only someone could have brought the right part.

And no, British Gas wouldn't give me back the £198 they had already taken from my account so I could cut my losses and start again. They "don't do" compensation. The last engineer, who "couldn't understand why this has been such a problem", told me I'd had the cowboys in here. "Yes," I sobbed. "It was your cowboys."

If only they'd apologised, it would have at least given me a lovely warm glow. Which is more than my boiler has been doing lately.

Ah, the romance of rail

Ten years ago, when I moved to London, visiting my parents in Derby was a miserable chore. Of course, Derby is charming and my folks are the finest in England. But the thought of shivering in St Pancras, with no shops or heating, was enough to send me scuttling back to the South Circular.

So mine will be a pint at the longest champagne bar in Europe when the new station opens fully – but I won't be going to Europe. There is nothing to beat hurtling north as London shrinks behind you and all the passengers visibly relax. By Leicester, they're often chatting and sharing mini-bottles of wine. Maybe now, arriving back in London will be just as fun as leaving it.

* Forgive my innate lack of romanticism about the furtherance of human understanding, but what exactly is the purpose of breeding a mouse that has no fear of cats? And how many mice got eaten before they decided it had worked?

Perhaps the scientists at the University of Tokyo are planning to extend this brilliant discovery and breed a tragic "super race" of humans who have no fear of being shot: they'd make excellent squaddies. Still, it doesn't sound nearly as cruel as the research at Queen's University, Belfast, which showed that prawns feel pain. They proved this by daubing the prawns' antennae with acid and watching as they writhed for "up to five minutes". Much as small boys research whether daddy long legs feel pain by pulling off all their legs one by one. It seems you can get a research grant for almost anything. Next the boffins will trough a lab full of doughnuts and announce that being fat is good for you. Oh...

k.guest@independent.co.uk

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice