Is it any wonder people get depressed in January? Something really sinister happens at this time of year. It begins, of course, with the boiler breaking down. This is only to be expected in heavy snow because boilers are not machines. They are sentient beings with malicious personal agendas. They wait patiently until it gets really cold then start dripping and spluttering and making pathetic choking noises that sound ever so slightly like ‘help! I’m dying!’ until you are forced to call out Tony the plumber.
There are many baffling things about plumbers but by far the most baffling thing about mine is that he always charges exactly the same amount of money — £326.20 — no matter what you ask him to do. This is terrific value if you want a new bathroom putting in but not so good if you just want a radiator with a stuck knob turned down. To call Tony you’ve got to be damned sure that what you are dealing with is £326.20’s worth of trouble.
This time it was touch and go. At first he said, ‘Not much wrong here, just needs a quick service…’ I thought, oh, God, no! Please let it be more than that. ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ I said, wondering whether I could get away with physically pushing him out of the house before he touched anything. ‘I’ve decided I want to let it drip. I quite like the drip. Yes, it’s all part of the atmosphere in the kitchen, you see, the bucket, and the towels everywhere. Makes it more cosy…’ But it was too late. Tony was enthusiastically pulling the boiler to pieces at an estimated cost, if it was just needing a quick service, of about £5 a minute. Luckily, however, once he started rummaging he found a whole section that needed replacing.