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(Almost a) Fiery ball of death

4 January 2012 by superlative

I’ve got loads of things to blog about at the moment, but this one is most immediate so I’m going to leapfrog it ahead of the others.

We nearly died in a fiery ball of death last night.

Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. There was no fire. But there was the potential for a massive fire due to a gas leak, and for a while it was quite scary.

There is a woman who lives two floors above us in our building who is quite old, seems to be an alcoholic, and is generally harmless but a bit batty. She asked Chris and I if we were twins recently, because we have “the same teeth”. That’s the sort of thing she says. She’s just not very with it.

Batty Lady has had some problems with her boiler recently, and doesn’t seem to have much money to fix it, so last week ended up having her gas switched off by Transco because her boiler was unsafe until such time as she could have it repaired. I had been aware that her gas was still off up until yesterday because the gas meters are in a cupboard near our front door where we put our recycling, so I had seen a few times that her meter was still off.

Yesterday I came home and put the recycling boxes away and thought “Hello, it smells a bit of gas in here”. I checked her meter, and it was back on again.

Hmm, I thought. She’s had it repaired then and someone has switched that back on (it had been physically disabled by Transco so she couldn’t do it herself), so maybe that’s just a residual smell from the work they did.

I went in and had dinner, then walked into our hallway about an hour later and it smelled really gassy inside our flat. We went out to the recycling cupboard and there was a MASSIVE smell of it, so we thought shit there’s clearly a leak, and it’s obviously her meter, and we had to call Transco back out again.

The man came in about 15 minutes during which time we avoided touching any electrical points, and it was the same man from last week who I know doesn’t like Batty Lady because she was drunk and uncooperative last time he had to switch her supply off. He confirmed it was leaking quite badly and had to be switched off urgently, and reluctantly Mr Transco and I went up to her flat together to tell her what the situation was.

She went mad.

She started ranting and waving her arms about, and shouting “YOU’RE NOT TURNING ME OFF AGAIN! YOU’RE NOT! I’ve been so COLD! I’VE NOT HAD HEATING FOR A WEEK UNTIL TODAY! I WANT TO SEE THIS LEAK!”

So she insisted on coming out into the street in her dressing gown and being shown the meter, where you could see gas bubbling out of a joint and you could barely breathe the air it was so thick.

“I’M NOT BEING TURNED OFF AGAIN. I’M NOT. I’M NOT!” and she stormed off into the building and slammed the door.

Now, unfortunately I got a bit irate at this point. In all things, my main priority is to keep Chris safe, and that’s the thing that I care about the most. After that I want to keep myself safe, and then much less important is keeping our belongings safe. So I was not happy that she seemed to want to just ignore the fact that there was a massive cupboard full of gas outside our bedroom window and our own hallway was rapidly filling up with gas leaking from her meter.

Fortunately Chris stepped in at that point, and he is much better at dealing with difficult people because he does it all day with difficult parents and special needs children.

“Val, stop. Stop shouting at me please, you’re being horrible”, he said much more calmly than I would have. “We are actually going to die Val, and be burned alive if we don’t sort the leak out.”

“I don’t want you to die love”, she said rather meekly, and he managed to keep talking to her and get her a bit calmer.

She rang the plumber who had done the work, and tried to get the plumber’s wife to speak to Mr Transco on the phone, who promptly started telling him off for distressing an old woman.

“I’m not being spoken to like that”, he said. “I’ll just switch the supply off and go then”, and he started to go off back to his van. Apparently he is only a contractor, he gets paid £9.50 for call outs like this, and his responsibility only extends as far as stopping the gas leak, not dealing with batty old women who smell of vodka.

Fortunately, Mr Plumber then turned up in his van, who Batty Lady trusted much more, and who convinced her to let them turn the supply off for five minutes, resolve the leak, and then he would restart her boiler for her, which was what Mr Transco had offered to do in the first place.

Now I do not think that Mr Plumber is a Gas Safe engineer, or that he should have been doing anything at all to her boiler or gas supply. “I’ve paid him £20 so far”, Batty Lady had told us, “And I’m paying him the rest weekly. He’s done a really good job.” Hmm, not that good, I thought.

From what I’ve gathered, he repaired the pipe to her boiler that was causing a problem, went down to the meters, removed the Transco cap, reconnected her meter, and switch it back on. BUT he didn’t put a washer in when he reconnected the meter, and Mr Transco told me privately that it would always ALWAYS leak without a washer and it’s a really basic thing. It’s not Mr Transco’s responsibility to fix that bit, but he did it anyway, as much to get himself out of the situation as soon as possible.

So once that was done he re-tested it and said there seemed to be no leak but to keep an eye on it. Off they both went, and Batty Lady got all apologetic and attempted-huggy (no hugs were permitted), and kept saying that she had just been so cold. I can understand now that she got distressed and frustrated very quickly after not having any heating for days, and that unfortunately she rubbed Mr Transco up the wrong way and he wasn’t very patient with her. But I’m still annoyed that she has had potentially dangerous work done on our gas supply and that she got so accusatory about us reporting the leak.

Her boiler may now be unsafe and may give her carbon monoxide poisoning, I don’t know. There’s not much I can about that. I’m fairly satisfied that the meter should be safe though, because that’s been worked on and checked by a proper engineer, and he wouldn’t leave it functioning if it wasn’t safe. There was no smell of gas at bedtime last night, and none this morning, so if it is still OK when I get home then I think it’s alright.

I found the whole thing really stressful though and was really worried the whole place would just go up if we couldn’t get it sorted. Why can’t people just be normal?? I hate having neighbours, I hate it. No one is ever just nice, and sane. I want to live in a detached house with a 40 meter exclusion zone around it so no one can annoy me and/or suffocate me and/or burn me alive.

One day I will. One day.


  1. Katie Piatt says:

    I won’t give you the details of my situation, and actually compared to fiery balls of death then I can’t really complain, but I’m with you on the detached house and exclusion zone. Although not *with* you, because that defeats the purpose…

  2. superlative says:

    You may be with me from 40 metres away, that’ll be fine. You may then email me to say “Woo! I can’t see or hear ANYONE!”

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