The Gasman cometh

Fortress H is under siege. Anyone who has had major work done on their house will know what an intrusion it is to have life disrupted by the banging and crashing of workmen.

Fortress H is under siege. Anyone who has had major work done on their house will know what an intrusion it is to have life disrupted by the banging and crashing of workmen. You may recall me complaining of a central heating leak; water has been disappearing under Fortress H and there are no signs where it is escaping from. I've been expecting to arrive home from work to find Mrs H has been forced to clamber on to the roof to escape the flood.

The leak allows air into the system which caused our ancient boiler to crack, needing major repair. With no sign of the source of the problem, the boiler is again already deteriorating - and it is so old, they can't guarantee to get spare parts.

The upshot of all this is that the pipework on the ground floor has to be cut off and new pipes dropped through the ceiling to all the radiators on the ground floor and a new boiler.

It would not have been so bad if Mrs H hadn't got boxes and boxes of stuff from her late father's house which she is systematically sorting through. On top of that there was loads of furniture to move, cupboards of crockery to empty - and add to all that the sudden arrival of Brat Major and all her stuff and you can understand why Mrs H has been directing operations at Fortress H in tones that are bordering on hysteria.

Brat Major, it has to be said, has been of little help. Her mother's repeated requests to sort her things out have caused the thrusting out of the jaw followed by a flouncing exit.

And so the day arrived when a van drew up containing Gasman. He was armed with tools of the like I had never seen before and had no idea for what purpose they could be used. He had drills that looked as though they would facilitate an escape from Alcatraz and sufficient copper piping to replumb Norwich Castle.

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I had the day off in case I was required to provide any form of labour. The loyal Mrs H was quick to point out that: “He's not very practical” and it was made politely clear that I could stand down.

Gasman set about his task and, as holes appeared in walls, floorboards were lifted and one of those mighty drills caused Fortress H to shake to its foundations, Mrs H and I decided to decamp. It's just as well I wasn't involved in the work. I had one of those banana skin days.

In view of the chaos we decided to eat out. As we set off the heavens opened and by the time we had run from the car to the restaurant we were soaked. But there was plenty of time to dry out before we ate. Mrs H studied the menu as if she was selecting paint from a colour chart. It took me barely a minute to decide. I guess it is easier because I go through the menu and eliminate all the dishes which have the slightest hint of chicken. But eventually Mrs H narrowed it down to the lasagne or the smothered chicken.

Finally she decided and, as I headed off to place the order, she called: “And I want salad and garlic bread, not chips!”

Our meals soon arrived; Mrs H stared at her plate for a split second before fixing me with a glare.

“Did you order this?” she demanded.

“Er… um…” I spluttered.

“Oh is it the wrong meal?” asked the concerned waitress.

“No,” Mrs H replied through tight lips. “It's my husband!”

The waitress looked me hard in the eye: “That is exactly what you ordered is it?”

I wanted to shout: “Yes! Yes! All right; so I got it wrong. Ok?”

Instead I meekly said; “Er yes. I'm sorry I made a mistake.”

“It's ok,” said Mrs H. “I'm happy with this.” Then, when the waitress had gone: “Honestly, I said I didn't think I'd have the chicken because we had it last night. You just don't listen. And now I've got chips. And which sauce is this?”


“I said if I had the chicken I'd have the diane sauce!”

I sat silently for a few minutes before trying to lighten the moment.

“It's a good job it's not our first date,” I quipped.

“Humph! If it had been, you'd have been more attentive.”

But the meal was good and we headed off to while away the rest of the day while Fortress H was being rebuilt.

To round off the day I lost my house keys. We searched the house, the car and the garden but there was no sign. I was not in Mrs H's good books anyway but when the threat of having to change the locks came on the scene, I was on borrowed time.

I checked with the restaurant. Phew! They'd been handed in. I'd dropped them in the car park while charging through the rain.

Mrs H gradually mellowed towards me - but I shall not complain next time she serves poultry. I fancy it won't be the chicken that's smothered.