Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RAVES!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 28/08/04

My Hot House Flowers!

Having spent a large part of the past year saying nasty things about Wrexham County Borough Council (see here, for example), it's only fair to balance things up a bit.

Having pleaded poverty year after year, they finally installed central heating for me a couple of weeks ago. I suspect they were left a sum of money by a rich maiden aunt, or they held the insurance man hostage, but whatever...

You've no idea what a difference this is going to make to my life. All I previously had in the way of heating was a coal fire with a back boiler, which powered (although 'powered' is hardly the word to describe so pathetic an effect) a number of radiators, none of which was in the bedroom!

What that meant in practice, of course, is that if you didn't have a fire halfway up the chimney, you had no heat. Nor did you have any hot water. This left me with the situation whereby, when I wanted to do the washing up outside of the coal-fire season, I had to boil two kettles of water to fill the sink. As for having a bath, well that meant an hour and a half of the immersion heater, and those bastards gobble electricity like there's no tomorrow.

The period from early October to early April every year is a depressing one at the best of times, but consider this on top of it: get up at 6:50 five days a week to go to work - house freezing cold; try to get warm by holding hands over cup of hot coffee; look forward to going to work simply so as to be somewhere warm. Come home from work sometime between 4:00 and 5:30 - house freezing cold; take twenty minutes making fire; take a further fifteen minutes for it to catch; take two hours for the warmth to become apparent; take coat off. And then, just as the radiators start to get warm, take the wooden road to Bedfordshire and spend an hour or so shivering until Sleep finally turned up (wearing a parka and heavy gloves, of course). Either that, or resort to putting an electric convector heater in the bedroom, and those things eat power too.

Add the cost of firelighters and coal (and I haven't yet had the heart to break the news to my coalman, Alfred Green - a good-hearted man), and the frantic sawing and chopping of firewood during any remotely dry and mild Saturday afternoon which might present itself (Confucius he may have said "Man who chop firewood warm himself twice", but sometimes Confucius he talk bollocks), and you have a recipe for a form of misery. One which lasts for about half the year.

When the guy came to do the survey for heating at the end of July, I wasn't expecting plans to be so well advanced. So, when he told me that the work would be done on August 16, I was astonished. "Are you sure they'll be able to do the job in one day?", I asked him. "Oh, yes.", he said confidently, "They're a good bunch of lads".

The 'good bunch of lads' turned up on the appointed morning and started work at about 8:50. By about 10:15 they had completely stripped out what was laughingly called the 'system'. I stayed in the garden out of the way throughout, not wanting to get under their feet. It's always wise to leave the professionals to get on with the job.

They worked hard, there's no doubt about it. They scarcely broke for lunch, and by shortly after 3:15, they were done. And I had a new gas-powered central heating system (with radiators in the bedrooms!), a new fireplace and a dual-powered fire (which also, as I discovered to my pleasure, can be used as a convector fan in hot weather - lovely on the old tootsies; I hate my feet getting too warm).

That evening, I did the washing up. Without having to wait for the kettles. It's the simple things that give the most pleasure (ask Laura Bush).

Some things have taken some getting used to, though. I've kept imagining that I can smell gas, although I'm sure that this is merely the smell given off by new plumbing getting hot. I also had a bit of surprise the second night. Because of all the cleaning I'd been doing, I'd had the system set for constant hot water. At about 1:00 on the Wednesday morning, I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep. Bear in mind the following:

So when, on the verge of dozing off, I heard "bloop, bloop, bloop....HISSSSSS" coming from a point about three feet below my head, I almost shat myself. The only reason that it took me all of eleven seconds to get down to the kitchen to see what the kilowatt was going on was that I had to put my glasses and slippers on first. Although I have to say that they were all I had on (luckily, I'd remembered to put the curtains back up by then).

So, I face the coming winter with a greater degree of happiness than for some years. Whatever happens outside the house, at least I'll be warm inside it.

All praise to the contractors who did the work, Robert T. Downs Ltd. of Mold and GLE Electrical. And to the Council, to give credit where it's due. Now, about having new front and back doors.....?