First-time buyer blues

Project: I’d like to connect my flat to gas

Time since Project Gas started: 1 month and 10 days

Cubic square metres of gas supplied: None

Capital output: £125

Capital output if time could be measured in cash: ££££

Potential for capital output to skyrocket without a sniff of gas: Very high

Having mulled, stewed and worked myself up into a thoroughly bad mood all weekend about the amount of hours spent last week on the phone to National Grid (Hannah, who works at their call centre in Northampton, was impressed-slashed-concerned that I could name every single person on her desk), I decided to opt for a different tack. Turning the problem on its head (and aware that I’ve paid £125 ? don’t ask why ? to British Gas and still have no hot water), I decided to give them a call instead.

In a matter of minutes, a friendly lady from BG agreed that I had been messed around. A small lift for the soul. Could I get myself to the flat in the next four hours? Yes, I said, if it meant a helpful outcome. Someone would be out to conduct a ‘safety check’. No idea why seeing as there isn’t any gas to flowing through my pipes yet to cause a safety hazard but delighted that there was an opportunity to collar someone knowledgeable.

Two friendly engineers (without toolboxes, I noted) arrived an hour or so later to inspect the pipe work. ‘It’s a regular nightmare, luv. No one seems to be able to agree on what should go where ? you’re not the first we’ve come across.’ They gave me two options (swiftly shifting the responsibility back to National Grid). One option is roughly £600 less expensive than the other so no surprises for which I’m going to have a go at first. Stop the press: someone is booked to arrive on Friday. Fingers crossed please that this man might be able to join the dots.

April 17, 2007

I learnt last weekend that a friend of a friend of mine is leaving his job and setting up a new company looking after other people’s property. I’m not entirely sure what he does right now but for my money he should stay put and prevent digging an early grave for himself. I’ve counted the grey hairs on my head ? they’ve doubled in the past 6 weeks that I have been wrangling with National Grid-formerly Transco-formerly the Gas Board. He’ll be doing that, multiple times a day, for the rest of his career.

To give the briefest of background to this apparently complex conundrum: there is a gas pipe that runs from the road outside my front door and up to the flats above me. I would like to connect to that gas pipe. A tee-off for my property has been created. A metre box has been installed. Now, despite 4 calls outs from National Grid (impressively these occur within four hours of a phone call) to prepare the necessary pipe work and 4 attempts by British Gas to fit a metre (these take about a week, each, to arrange), I am, still, gas-less. Each visit brings back a variation on ‘You need more/less pipe, the valve being moved, a new service, the metre box being moved’ and compounding the situation is that left hand (National Grid) and right hand (British Gas) don’t talk to each other. (‘Thatcher!’, I growl.) And the last official word from National Grid?: ‘We don’t know what else we can do’. If it was possible to hyperbolise ‘exasperated’, I’d coin a new word.

Another problem that needs to be addressed shortly is that despite the fact that my charming Italian neighbour upstairs swears that his very smart black floorboards have been appropriately ‘floated’ according to a sound proofing clause in our lease, my builder, who has inspected the set up through my ceilings says this is nonsense. Currently I wouldn’t be surprised if I could hear them breaking wind. The floors are that thin. One potentially saving grace is that the aforementioned charmer, unwittingly told us that the cowboy who laid the floor was the previous owner who has already been found to employ some extraordinary plumbing techniques (who ever thought it was clever to drill holes in water pipes?). I’m building up strength to stamp my foot down and insist that he has his floors re-laid. Ouch, that will be expensive.

And for the good news, the carpets are laid.