Assuming someone had moved house before, and put a new boiler in their new house, while remaining a customer of British Gas, I set about doing that.
It never occurred to me that I might be the first person on the planet to attempt such a thing. Not for a second did I imagine I was a swashbuckling pioneer to come up with the idea of ripping out an old boiler at the same time as continuing to buy gas, electricity and home servicing from an energy supply company.
But it turns out I really was, or at least that is the impression I was given. Having decided to continue with the same company, rather than shop around for a new supplier who would charge me slightly less at first then much more in a year’s time, I rang to ask about my service contract. The new house had a cranky old boiler that would be coming out at some point, I told them, so should I not cancel and restart the contract when I had the new boiler up and running?
The upshot of the discussion that ensued was that I really would be tempting Armageddon to cancel my Homecare policy. A sane person would surely keep it going, and when the new boiler was in book an engineer to come out and see it just to make sure British Gas was happy with it.
Sounded alright, as a plan.
My eye was then taken off the ball when an electricity smart meter was foisted on me a few weeks later. The builders let the guy in. I came home to find an evil little machine on my hallway table blinking about how much power I was using every second of the day. ‘Total Today £0.14,’ it said, at 16:36. Then at 18:33: ‘Total Today £0.18.’
Why not issue me with a machine measuring how many breaths I’ve taken, counting down the gasps I’ve got left until I’m dead?
I unplugged it and threw it in a drawer. Did they know I had done this? I waited for a phone call or letter from British Gas ordering me to reconnect my doom-ometer.
But the only letter that came was to remind me that my annual boiler service was overdue. I rang the number. The wait was half an hour. ‘I’ll ignore it,’ I thought. But the letters kept coming, and they got quite strict in tone, until they were threatening to stop insuring my boiler that hadn’t been installed yet.
Eventually, Terry the plumber took me to the heating centre and I splashed out on a magnificent Worcester Bosch. I got quite a thrill as the man behind the counter talked me through its features, none of which I understood in the slightest, but which sounded goddam sexy as boilers go.
Terry took the shine off it as well as he could by telling me cheerfully that when he finished the bathroom I should keep the temporary electric shower in the basement because ‘if yer boiler breaks daaaa’an you’ve always got somewhere to wash!’
‘Terry,’ I admonished him, ‘I’ve just spent thousands on a Worcester Bosch. It is never going to break down.’
‘Yeah, I know!’ said Terry. ‘I’m just saying, if it does, you’ve got the electric shaaaa’ar!’
Electric shower, my foot. With the boiler purring away, I forgot about anything to do with it, because that was the whole point of buying it. It wasn’t until the other day, months later, I turned my attention to the growing heap of letters.
The wait time was half an hour whenever I called so I did an online chat with someone called Andy to book an appointment. ‘Is this it? Is this what life is now? No one speaking to anyone. It’s tragic,’ I told him, which, I assume, he could have done without.
The engineer turned up a week later, and stopped dead in front of the gleaming combi. ‘That’s a brand new Worcester Bosch,’ he said. ‘Correct,’ I said, preening myself. ‘That don’t need servicing for a year and even then…’ ‘…it’s never going to break down?’ I finished his sentence for him. ‘Well, yeah.’
‘The thing is, they said you had to test it, to continue the service contract.’
‘I can’t test it, cos you ain’t got all your radiators hooked up yet.’
‘But they’re threatening to stop my contract if I don’t have it serviced today, and I’m not getting the rest of my radiators hooked up for ages. I’m gutting the house.’ He shook his head. The impasse was insoluble. ‘Or I could just cancel the contract?’ I suggested. ‘Yeah, you could do that,’ he perked up. ‘And restart it when you’re ready!’
And, of course, if I’d done that four months ago, I would have saved £120.