Not ever, obviously. You don’t reach your half century without regularly and with ever more irritation being enraged by the actions or opinions of others. I just mean that this is the first rant that I’m going to blog about. My first blant.
Here’s another qualifier: it’s not even particularly ranty. That’s all to do with timing. Six weeks ago I was seething with fury, now I’m just mildly amused.
So what’s brought on this disappointingly less-than-livid tirade? Two words. British Gas.
Faced with a winter energy bill that came eye-wateringly close to £1,000, I figured it was high time I added to the meagre amount of insulation in our loft. I did some research and discovered that there were financial incentives in London (and probably elsewhere) for people to do just that.
In London it works like this. British Gas come and do the work for you, you pay them the total cost on completion of the work then at some point in the future you get £100 back from the Mayor’s office.
So if your loft costs £230 to get insulated, you end up paying £130. I know I didn’t really have to explain that like you’re a six-year old, but misunderstandings seem to be the recurring motif of this little story so I hope you’ll excuse me.
Stage 1 – the survey
So, back in January I rang BG to book a slot. The home insulation message is clearly getting through as the earliest appointment they could offer was late April. Timing was quite critical as we were planning to have the hall and landing decorated in the Spring, and if BG insulation people were
going to traipse through the house lugging huge rolls of foam, I’d rather they did it before we had pristine walls and a new carpet.
April was still OK. However, the appointment turned out to be not for having the work done, but for having a survey. To see if my loft is suitable.
It might not be suitable, you see. It might be one of those lofts that’s just resistant to insulation; that actively repels it in a Stephen King sort of way. Or the loft might already be knee-deep in insulation, rendering the exercise pointless. Or it might not be a loft at all but the living room of the upstairs flat.
These possibilities have to be checked out.
So the official British Gas Loft Surveyor came round at the allotted time and, credit where it’s due, carried out the survey without a hitch. Flawlessly, even, although that’s probably not a word that should be used in a climbing-into-other-people’s-lofts context.
He took measurements and notes and left me with a big file explaining how it all worked. We shook hands and off he went. Then the fun began.
BG called me to arrange a date for the actual work to be carried out. I’m freelance, so taking a day off normally means foregoing a day’s pay. Then an idea struck me. ‘Do I actually have to be there?’ I asked the BG lady. ‘Not really,’ she said. ‘As long as there’s someone there to let the men in.’
Leigh would be there. He’s our trusty painter and decorator, and he’d be starting that very Monday. He could let the guys in and, when they were done, hand them the cheque that I’d leave behind. ‘Who should I make the cheque out to?’ She told me, and we were all set.
Monday came, and half-way through the morning I rang Leigh to ask if the home insulation people had turned up yet. ‘They’ve been and gone,’ he said.
‘Wow, they were quick.’
‘Nah, they didn’t do anything. They just looked at the loft and left.
‘Looked at the loft and left?’ I laughed.
‘Yeah. They said someone would call you.’
And sure enough, someone did. The BG guy explained everything. Apparently they’d sent the wrong kind of insulation people.
‘You’ve got a long drive, and they couldn’t get the hose all the way up.’
‘Eh? What hose?’
‘To blow the foam in.’
‘But I thought I was having rolls of insulation.’
‘Yes. That’s what it says here. They must have sent the wrong team. They just do the blow jobs.’
Blimey, I’m glad I wasn’t in.
So we re-arranged, choosing another day when Leigh would be there, painting and pasting.
Insulation Day, Slight Return
I’m at work. The phone rings.
‘British Gas here. The insulation team turned up at your address but there’s nowhere to park.’
‘I moved my car out of the way so that they could park in our driveway.’
‘The van is too big.’
‘They can park in front of the driveway.’
‘They’re not allowed to block driveways.’
‘How about they dump the stuff, and one guy stays with it while the other goes off to park the van?’
‘They’re not allowed to do that for health and safety reasons.’ I struggled to see the threat to either health or safety in such a plan, but let it ride.
‘So they’re just driving around looking for a parking space?’
‘No. They’ve gone. You’ll have to rebook.’
This is in the suburbs, for heaven’s sake. How on earth do British Gas vans ever cope in the more densely populated streets of inner London, or inner anywhere? Perhaps their surveys should take as much notice of the local parking situation as they do on ensuring that the loft is a proper bona fide loft and that it is correctly situated in the space between the ceiling and the roof.
There was a slight hiccup in that Leigh would have finished painting by the time of the next available appointment, meaning I’d have to take time off from work, but my daughter came to the rescue by saying that she’d be home from college on the day in question. It was a momentary respite, however.
‘How old is your daughter?’ At the time, she was a couple of months shy of 18. Which wasn’t acceptable. Someone has to sign the forms saying that the loft has been insulated, and that someone has to be an adult. Understandable, I suppose.
Son of the Return of Insulation Day
So I ended up being at home to welcome the BG insulation technicians. After having a word with the neighbours I managed to conjure up a parking space for their van, and they started unloading the rolls of insulation.
‘Have you got a ladder?’ one of them asked. I found this very strange; that two guys whose sole job consisted of climbing in and out of people’s lofts didn’t have a ladder of their own.
‘What type is it?’
This was getting surreal. Were they setting me up for a step-ladder joke? (‘I have a step ladder.’ ‘So…it’s not your real ladder?!?!!!11′). Or would the description of my ladder enable them to somehow adapt the insulation-laying operation? But neither of those was the question really I wanted to ask.
‘Sorry but, you know, don’t you have one?’
It turned out be another misunderstanding. They meant did I have one of those loft ladders that glides down when you pull a rope or flick a switch or something. I didn’t. In fact, I lust after such a ladder. But had I owned one, they wouldn’t have needed to use their own. Suddenly it made sense.
They used their own ladder and got the job done in around an hour. I signed the form to say that they hadn’t broken anything and handed them the cheque. But the head honcho explained that they weren’t able to accept cheques. ‘You don’t pay us,’ he said. ‘Head office will ring you, probably within the hour. You pay by card over the phone.’
Was this the same office that told me who to make the cheque out to? Right hand, meet left hand. The hour went by without the call. Then the rest of the day. Then May came and went. Then June.
And this is why I’m amused rather than angry. To date, no one has asked for payment. So although I lost half a day’s pay, I’ve had my loft insulated free of charge. Here’s to incompetence.