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

Date: 03/08/17

A Winning Combi-nation

As I mentioned in the second paragraph here, I was having a new central heating system put in yesterday.

The old one (the story of the installation of which you can read here) was still perfectly adequate, but I suppose one must move with the times, and with the Council seemingly flush with cash of late (having provided me in the last thirteen months with - in order of appearance - new paths, a new roof and a new fuseboard), I'll take it.

It will make up for the faffabout regarding the new kitchen and bathroom I should have had. They first came to me a couple of years ago offering this, but also telling me that the job would take four to six weeks to complete. Now, there seems to be an unwritten assumption on the part of the Housing Department that council tenants comprise just three categories: the unemployed; the disabled; and pensioners. The idea that any of their tenants actually go out and earn a living (and are therefore beholden to their employers with regard to such minor matters as time off work) is one which appears not to have penetrated very deeply into their collective consciousness.

So I was obliged to turn down their kind offer. But a few weeks ago, I got a letter and glossy leaflet from the 'Head of Housing, Public Protection and Environment' (an odd combination of duties) on Ruthin Road, advising me that this was my last chance for a new kitchen and bathroom, as the funding runs out next March. Was I still interested? I e-mailed back to say that I most definitely was, but only if the job could be done in no more than six consecutive working days.

(I don't think that this was an unreasonable stipulation. For one thing, I still have the same obligation to the organisation which pays me, and if I'm to keep myself in the little luxuries of existence - food, clothes and suchlike fripperies - I have to abide by The Depratment's requirements of me. Secondly, if I were of that class of privileged citizen-consumer called 'an owner-occupier', and I went to a firm saying that I wanted a new kitchen and bathroom, and they said, "Yur, we can do it squire, but it'll take six weeks", I would go elsewhere. But I'm merely a tenant of 'social housing', and so must get what I'm given).

I got no reply to my e-mail, so about three weeks later I tried again. This time, in fairness, I got an answer within a couple of hours. As I had expected, this was something of a brush-off, on the lines of "we have x number of people working on y number of properties at any time, and the best we can offer is sixteen working days". This, of course, is over three weeks, and is no more do-able than the original timescale. So, no new kitchen or bathroom at Mental Towers.

Anyway, back to Wednesday. The team who were doing me turned up shortly before 8:30 and set to the task with vigour. I had helped as much as I could by moving as much stuff as possible from the areas where I thought it most likely they would need to get at, but this had its limits; there's only so small an area into which you can fit the furniture of an entire room. So, I maximised the effect by considering where the previous installers had worked and cleared those areas as much as possible.

This wasn't necessarily a good guide, because the main change from the old system was that the boiler which had been in a corner of the kitchen was being replaced by a new one which would go in what had been the airing cupboard in the bedroom, and so new connections would have to be worked out. I told the head guy of the gang that they could move anything they needed to, and left them to it.

As regards 'leaving them to it', I had hoped for a dry day so that I could spend it sitting in the garden, reading William Dalrymple's The White Mughals (a kind loan from my friend Siān) and listening to last week's Promenade concert featuring the songs of the legendary Scott Walker. Unfortunately, this being a British Isles summer, it was raining steadily, which left me to sit in the living room, failing to either read or listen to my intended cultural choices because of the ineluctable racket which was being kicked up.

By 10:00, all the old radiators had been removed and the amount of movement and activity reminded me of the ants who swarm out from under the path at the back of the house at this time of year (I've not seen this happen this year, by the way; I suspect I've missed the spectacle). Bang, thump, crunch, CLANG!!. On they went, scarcely stopping for a moment, as I watched the old hot and cold water tanks being manhandled down the stairs and out into the garden, where the rain kept falling.

On they worked virtually without a break, the main team doing all the plumbing and whatnot (the 'whatnot' consisting in part of the creation of a new airing cupboard out of the cupboard at the top of the stairs, which at least means I now actually have an airing cupboard again, but which also means that I now have even less storage space for the accumulated junk of my existence); and a couple of lads from another company who were concerned with the electricals. This latter pair (obviously master and apprentice) installed the very nice-looking new electric fire in the living room and wired up the new thermostat and boiler control panel in the hall.

Finally, shortly before 15:00, with the shares in Makita having reached an all-time high on the Tokyo bourse, the installation (including that of a new flue which goes out...through the new roof which was only put on ten months ago - there's nothing like co-ordination, is there?), pressurising, testing and cleaning all done, the head honcho (who seemed to be called 'Plums'; I hope this was short for something else) showed me around.

Long-term readers will recall my Great Winter Project™ of sanding and staining the floorboards (which came to a halt eighteen months ago when I fell so ludicrously seriously ill), and the infamous 'chocolate sauce' filling (part sanding residue, part PVA glue) which I'd used to fill the gaps between the boards. Well, I had been resigned to have to do this all over again, but looking through the bedrooms, bathroom and landing, I found that it was not going to be as big a job as I'd feared, although dozens of screws had been used to pin the boards down in the meantime.

'Plums' introduced me to my new bedroom companion, an Ideal Logic combi (hence the title of this piece; it was too good a chance to pass up). Unlike the old system, which necessitated a hot water tank, a cold water tank and a noisome header tank in the loft, this is a closed, pressurised system where everything runs through just the boiler.

He then showed me the controls down in the hall. These are a huge improvement on the old system. That one had a rotary timer with little clips you could move to set the start and end times for heating and water. The problem being that you couldn't get the clips close enough together for any timing period less than about an hour and a half. This meant that, although I could have the heating come on at, say, six in the morning, I would have to turn it off manually before going to work otherwise the confounded thing would keep heating the house for half an hour after my departure. This in turn meant that I came home to a cold house. Now, I'll be able to set it with far greater accuracy and efficiency (once I've read the instructions again).

Once the heating engineers' boss had come along to cast an eye over the result, off they went with a job very well done (except for the fact - discovered some two and half hours later - that one of them, seeking to recharge his tool (as 'twere) had unplugged the fridge; no obvious harm was done, and this was mentioned to the Council inspector who called this morning).

Let's hear it at this point, then, for the teams from Clifton's of Wrexham and RJW Electrical of Llangollen (and it's nice to see our Council use local contractors for these jobs). Thank you, lads!

Now I have hot water ready within a minute of starting to run the tap, and have had a transformation in the bathroom. Whether due to an inherent weakness in the old system, or a cock not being fully open somewhere, the water pressure in the bath had been abysmal for years, meaning that it took twenty minutes or more to get enough water in it to cover my requirements. Now, when I turned the hot tap on the bath...WHOOOSH!!!. Also, the flush in the bog is of near-tsunami magnitude, so much so that - if I were to flush it while still sitting on it, it would likely provide me with a quick-rinse power bidet as well.

I've spent Thursday trying to put things back in their proper place, but an extreme fatigue coupled with likely dehydration from yesterday (where I was limited in my fluid intake by the necessity of having to go out in the rain and take a surreptitious pee down the soak-away from the gutters) have meant that very little has been done so far. It'll be well into next week before everything will be back as it should be, I suspect.