In hot water over the boiler timer

PUBLISHED: 11:33 17 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:02 22 October 2010

I'm always intrigued by the air of mystery that surrounds Mrs H. The image people seem to have in their minds is of this large dominant woman with a sharp tongue; one who never lets up on her ever errant family.

I'm always intrigued by the air of mystery that surrounds Mrs H. The image people seem to have in their minds is of this large dominant woman with a sharp tongue; one who never lets up on her ever errant family.

But when people meet the trim and lively Mrs H they lavish praise on her fortitude and lambaste me for being “so horrible to her”.

Last weekend we went to Beachamwell to support the village's Open Garden event to raise money for the lovely St Mary's Church. And it was the same old story with Mrs H.

“Oh you're nothing like I imagined! Why don't you take the column over and have a go back at 'im?”

My protestations that every word reflects life as it really is at Fortress H and that I have offered her the opportunity to write the column any time she likes, fell on deaf ears. So let me say once again. Mrs H vets the column each week and has yet to issue a writ.

And another thing; she's not always as damned efficient as you may think. Brat Minor found this out when we returned from that trip to Beachamwell.

Do you remember those westerns that were on TV in the Sixties, the likes of Laramie and Bronco Lane? There were often episodes where, on some isolated ranch, Ma was having a baby. The cry would go out: “Lots of hot water and towels!” In the sanitised days of TV 40 years ago nothing particularly graphic was shown and the next thing the viewer saw was the newborn baby. We never saw the infant actually arrive so what part these critical items played in the delivery remained a mystery.

For years I was convinced hot water and towels were essentials in the maternity ward and I felt quite let down when Brats M and M were born and there wasn't a steaming kettle in sight.

Mrs H and I chuckle about this from time to time and it came to mind last week around teatime when the convalescing Brat Minor decided he would take a relaxing bath to aid his recovery. This has become quite a regular thing and he has the filling of the bath down to a fine art. He sets the taps running then disappears to do something else. He knows just when to return before the bath overflows. On this particular occasion he was about to plunge into the water when he realised it was stone cold.

At this time of year, when central heating is not needed, the Fortress boiler is on a timed sequence and only switched to 'on' when inmates are taking extra baths and showers. The timer is set to cater for weekdays then amended for weekends to allow for lie-ins and me showering after a sweaty session in the garden. Because we had been out all day, Mrs H had not reset the timer so the water hadn't reheated from the morning's ablutions.

Brat Minor was decidedly tetchy. He stood there aghast. What was he to do with a bath full of cold water? Mrs H and I knew what to do.

“Lots of hot water; he's got the towels!”

We sprang into action. Within seconds, four large saucepans were heating on the cooker and the kettle was powering towards boiling point. Brat Minor watched in astonishment.

“Oh please don't put this in your column,” he pleaded. “If you do, make sure it's Mum's fault and not mine.”

In fact, I do have some sympathy with him; this situation does crop up on occasions at Fortress H during the summer. More than once I have set the shower going and found myself standing there patiently waiting for the water to run hot. Or I've been forced to boil the kettle to wash up.

Mrs H adopts a puzzled frown, fiddles with the timer and blames the boiler. Then she blames me for not telling her I wanted an unauthorised shower.

I can't complain too much, I have similar mental blocks when it comes to setting the alarm. Fortunately we have one of those clocks with two alarms. During the week I'm up first. Immediately the alarm buzzes I switch it off. After five minutes or so I'm up and into the day.

But Mrs H and mornings are not compatible; I am sure the snooze button was invented for her. Often I can hear the alarm desperately bleeping away trying to wake her. It is rewarded by being whacked on to snooze again. Mrs H can easily out-sleep the maximum number of snoozes for which the clock is programmed.

But my problem is at weekends. Sometimes I forget to cancel the early alarm. I value a lie-in and it really winds me up to be jerked into consciousness when there's no need to get up. And once I'm awake I can't get back to sleep.

Mind you, it's probably worse when I forget to reset the alarms for the Monday morning and we are up late. Then I really am in hot water. Well, I am if Mrs H has reset the timer on the boiler.

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