|02-26-2011, 03:33 PM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Ealing Common, London W5, where I duplicate CDs and DVDs.
We had some new carpet fitted a week ago, and we’ve been putting up with a dreadful gassy smell since. They said it was just the chemicals they put in, and it would go away after a few days. Well, it didn't, and although we grew used to it, every visitor commented on it, worried.
This morning the fitter came back to do the last room. "Morning Guv," sniff, sniff. "Blimey, you got a gas leak?"
“Well, if we have,” said I, “then we've had it for a week because it started right after you finished.” He didn’t like the sound of that so, noses to the ground like bloodhounds, we crawled around on our hands and knees until he found what was clearly the source of the smell beside a concrete step. "I might 'ave pranged a pipe 'ere: concrete, y'see, so I 'ad to use nails. 'Ang on, I'll unpin it and 'ave a shufti."
"God no, don't do that!" But too late: 'e'd (sorry, he'd) already yanked out a nail, and immediately we were treated to the loud hiss and clear plume of gas squirting out from a suddenly-freed hole. "Oops" was his succinct evaluation of the situation with which we were now presented.
Oops? Oops, my bottom! Right, Springall: turn off the main valve in the meter box outside. I zoomed to the utility cupboard where I keep the key, only to find it wasn’t there. Christ, where is the bloody thing?
I yelled into the kitchen "Quick, where's the key to the gas meter box outside?" The Boss, calmly as always: "What's it look like? By the way, what's that noise?"
"Gas, that's what! It's a little bit of 10mm copper pipe, bent at right-angles with a crimped end, doesn't look anything like a key, but it opens the box, it's kept on that shelf in the cupboard, and I need it right now."
"Which cupboard, dear?"
"The utility cupboard of course, woman, where else?"
"No need to shout. Hang on, I'll switch on the light and have a look myself."
"NO! Don't do that, there's gas everywhere."
"Gas? What, real gas? Oh gosh, gas! Quick, you open the front and back doors to clear the air while I move the budgie into the front garden. Grab the cat, too." Mrs Next Door then turned up: "Hello darling, what's all the commotion about?” I quickly explained what was happening, “and the most urgent task right now is to get this cover off so I can reach the valve and turn off the gas. Everything else is secondary to that.”
“Hello you lot, anything I can do?” This cheery greeting was from Simon, struggling up on his crutches to give assistance. Next Door filled him in: “Robin’s broken the gas pipe, and lost his key.”
“Actually, it wasn’t quite like that” I began to explain, but my mind was elsewhere. Clearly puzzled, Simon looked first at me, then at the open front door, then at the carpet fitter, and back to me again. His face lit up: “When I was at sea,” he offered, helpfully, “I remember a steam line fractured, and -” I interrupted him quickly: “Simon: have you got a key to open the bloody meter box? That’s all we need, but we need it now because my house is filling up with gas.”
“You mean that little bit of copper pipe you keep in your –”
“Yes, yes, that’s exactly the one, but it’s not there. Someone’s gone and taken it. Who, I have no idea but there it is, gone!” I had my arm outstretched, pointing in the general direction of the utility cupboard. Simon’s face screwed up: he was clearly uncomfortable. This is a man with a double First in English and History, so incorrect sentence construction pains him more than it does us mere mortals. I wasn’t interested: “Look, I’m just after this one thing at the moment: do you have a key to the box?”
He drew himself up to his full height and looked down at what he could tell was a captive audience. “As a matter of fact, I do: I have yours. You lent it to me weeks ago so I could read my meter. It’s quite interesting, really: I was convinced that British Gas’s estimated reading was considerably too high, so I came round and borrowed –”
“Great but where is it?” I interrupted, almost yelling. He looked a bit hurt. “I’ll just go and fetch it. I shall return presently,” he said, slowly adjusting his weight on the crutches and trying to shuffle round to go off to his house.
“Look, I haven’t got time to wait, Simon: just tell me where it is and I’ll run ahead and get it myself.” It was on the window sill in his kitchen, apparently, so I dashed off down the road, round through his back door, and - Hallelujah - there it was! Holding it aloft like a football trophy, I tore back home followed by his missus, opened the box eagerly and found... no handle on the valve! Yikes! How was I going to turn it off?
So there we were in front of the house: the Boss, the carpet fitter (still looking suitably sheepish, as well he might), Mrs Next Door, Simon on his crutches, Simon’s wife, and me giving a passable imitation of a whirling dervish on speed. The old schoolmaster started emerging slowly from his house, to be greeted by Simon doing his best Red Adair impersonation, calling over “Don’t worry, Martin, it’s only a gas leak. If you hear a massive explosion, that’ll just be us!” The poor man’s in his late eighties, already very pale, but I swear he went a shade paler at that remark. However, he decided to amble over to join the party.
“Right,” I said to Mrs Next Door. “Your gas valve must have a handle – I’ll just take yours off and put it onto mine.” Accompanied by everyone and that priceless home-made key, I opened her meter box to find that her handle was screwed onto the valve with a huge slotted bolt. I mean, how much worse was this going to get? “We need a really, really wide screwdriver, and fast, but I haven’t got one anything like large enough.” Apparently there was a note of alarm in my voice.
“I’ll find something,” said the Boss. Holding a handkerchief to her face, she ran back inside our house and came out a moment later with a half-inch wood chisel and a Mole wrench. A wood chisel, for heaven’s sake! But actually it was a perfect fit for the slot, and once I had the wrench on it, we could get enough torque on it to release the handle. We all crossed over the drive to my house, crowded round the meter box and... Yes! The handle fitted the valve, I screwed it on pointing down, and turned it 90 degrees. Or tried to, but the bloody thing wouldn’t move. I swung on it like it was an oar, but still nothing: it wasn’t going to budge, that was clear.
“Perhaps it goes the other way,” ventured two or three people in unison, none of whom was me, I’m ashamed to admit. The side of the box was in the way, but there was a bit of movement. Desperately, I unscrewed the handle and put it back so it pointed up instead of down. Screwed it tight, turned it, and there it was, pointing sideways beautifully. What a relief!
“We need to check that the gas really has stopped,” I said. So the whole team, for that’s pretty much how we saw ourselves by this point, tumbled into the house and bent down to where the punctured pipe was. I couldn’t hear anything at all, except the pounding in my head, but we each bent down in turn and declared the all-clear with much kissing and back-slapping, and we laughed and laughed so much it really hurt. The bonhomie was such that even the poor carpet fitter was forgiven.
It’s illegal to do any gas work unless you’re Gas Safe qualified, so when I got my breath back I phoned Jan the plumber, who is. Brilliant man, he was here within the hour and replaced the piece of pipe with the two nail holes (I’ve kept it as a souvenir).
The house now has that lovely smell of new carpet. Just that, and no gas. Jan says we were lucky the place didn’t go up during last week. That was close!
Intellectually challenged, alcoholically propelled