I had, as Jimmy Saville would put it, Dr Gas round this morning to service my boiler. Everything was fine, he said, no carbon monoxide poisoning me (“it’s a sealed unit”), no problems. Great. He checked out the gas meter, all OK.
Later I went into my kitchen to make some lunch. And smelled gas. I opened the cupboard with the gas meter in, and it was stronger – definitely the source. I thought, well, maybe it’s some artifact of the testing. Let it clear, see if it’s still there in an hour.
An hour later, I try again. Yes, still there. I turn off the gas.
I ring Tucker Gardner, née Camflats. They first decide that I’m talking about the boiler I’ve just had serviced, and inform me that I’ve just had my boiler serviced and everything was fine. I emphasise that I’m talking about the meter. They tell me it’s all just been tested, and there are no problems. I counter that I couldn’t smell gas before the engineer came, and now I can. And I mention how I left it for an hour, and can still smell gas. I speak to one of their maintenance staff, who tells me confidently “it’s a sealed unit”. I say that I appreciate that, but I can smell gas. He tells me that they were doing some varnishing work outside my flat today, according to the engineer who visited. I know, I say, it’s not that. It’s gas. It can’t be, they say, everything was tested etc.
I ask for their recommendation. They tell me they’ll ring me back.
Meanwhile I turn the gas on again, leave it a few minutes, confirm that yes, I can still smell it, and turn it off again.
Ten minutes later, Tucker Gardner ring back with their considered wisdom. “Phone Transco,” they say, “0800 111 999”. I predicted that. They’ve clearly decided that I’m deranged or paranoid and are washing their hands of the situation. I should have gone “Boom!” down the phone at them.
I ring Transco and speak to a very bored call centre worker in god knows where. He gets my details, goes through his script (“Can you smell it outside?”, “No, I’m leaning out of a window and I can’t smell anything”), and sends a man over. I imagine a man in a cape, like Bicycle Repair Man.
Meanwhile my kitchen window’s open and it’s blowing a freezing gale outside.
Twenty minutes later Captain Transco arrives. I can tell straight away he’s a good’un, as he says he’s from the National Grid. I tell him the story, he puts his little hose up to the meter, and it smells gas, just like I did.
He has a tut, a poke around and another tut and discovers the problem. Apparently when engineers test the meter they unscrew a little nipple thing. After several years of this unscrewing and screwing it gets less and less effective until it becomes useless. “This is the third one I’ve dealt with this week”, he says. One chap recently had a hyoooooge bill as his (outside) meter had this problem and he was paying for lots of lovely gas to escape into the atmosphere.
Solution: a new gas meter, which he cheerfully fits.
Good thing I was in today, wasn’t it? Or I’d have come home to a flat full of gas and immediately turned a light on.
I may give Tucker Gardner another ring later…