It’s been a funny old week. On Wednesday I was told the reason why the thermostat on the new boiler had failed was because of the ‘fabric of the building.’ Apparently connectivity doesn’t like floorboards, copper pipe or electric cable. We’d waited all day for the gasman to call and he was only there five minutes to tell us that his colleague had incorrectly sited the thermostat and to then reposition the silly thing. Apparently if it fails again I’m to unhook the thermostat from the wall and take it into the bathroom so that I can ‘reintroduce it to the boiler.’ Having made the necessary and no doubt polite introductions they should start talking to one another. What the gasman doesn’t realise is that if it happens once too often that someone is going to be on the naughty step.
Unfortunately by that time the snow had stopped looking picturesque and had become more of a hazard so that necessitated a stay in a well-known chain of motorways hotels. I’m slightly alarmed that in my mind they’re starting to take on five star spa qualities – hot water, a television and a king sized bed. I’m even more concerned that I’ve started to travel around the countryside with a bag containing night things, a change of clothes and an assortment of shampoos and bubble baths as well as a range of teas, chocolate and fruit. I mean I believe in being prepared but this is just ridiculous.
This was followed by a trip North to see Mam. Her little bungalow is like an outpost for the hottest of Kew Gardens’ hothouses. Within two seconds of arriving I started stripping my many layers. It did no good at all though; within five minutes I was on the verge of dosing off which is why she thinks I’m very quiet.
It took me a moment or two to realise that Mam was fascinated by what was going on across the road. “They’ll have come to collect the equipment.” Mam gestured at the van that had just pulled up.
“Looks like they’re delivering something.” HWIOO pulled himself back into wakefulness.
“No. Definitely not. They’re collecting.”
“They’ve got something out of the van.”
“But that can’t be right, Mrs Graham from across the way popped into see me yesterday- do you know that she sometimes goes to the corner shop in her pyjamas. She can’t be right in the head. She was saying that Mabel Richardson was in a bad way. Apparently she needs bathroom equipment. One lot was delivered last Tuesday and then, you’ll never credit it, another lot was delivered this Tuesday. I mean, the poor woman, her house is only the same size as mine. Mind, they once gave me one of those walking frame things on wheels. I soon sent it back. It pulled the fluff out of the carpet.”
By now HWIOO and I were standing by the window watching in fascination to find out what Mam meant by bathroom equipment. I imagined a hoist of some description. Actually it was a commode and a chair with arms that fits over the toilet to make it higher.
“They’re definitely delivering,” I confirmed.
“What will she want with three lots of equipment?”
“There’s been a mistake I expect.” It wouldn’t have done to point out that with exactly three rooms in addition to the hall that Mabel wasn’t going to get caught short any time soon.
“What do you mean that you sent something to help with your mobility back?” HWIOO was clearly more awake than I realised.
Mam pretended not to hear. “I want you to change all the electric bulbs and then you’ll need to go and get some more spare.”
“But we only changed the one in the bedroom last time we were here.”
“Aye, but if it goes it’ll blow all the fuses and I’m sure I saw it flickering last night. I could be plunged into darkness, fall and be on the floor all night.”
“All the bulbs?”
So that was what we did – change all the bulbs, though to be honest we put the ones that came out of the lamps back into the boxes and returned them to the cupboard for use at a later date.
“You do realise this bulb should last for 30,000 hours don’t you? That’s about two years. You could have the light on all the time for two years and it would still be okay.”
“You can change them for some new ones when you come again.”
“But we’ll be back at the end of February.”
“Yes, but it never does to take chances. Now you’ll have some cake before you go.”
“We’ve only just arrived.”
“I’ve got a spot of shopping for you to do. I want some apples. Don’t pick them off the front of the display. They’ll have been handled. I also want two chicken dinners, two fruit scones out of the bakery mind, some lavender soap and a box of fairy cakes. Make sure the chicken hasn’t been mucked about with, I can’t abide food that’s been mucked about with.”
“Is that it?”
“Oh yes, and some bulbs for the electric fire. And you can take that reading light away. It’s a fire hazard.”
“The plug gets hot. It could burn the house down.”
“But Mam it’s a transformer pack. It’s supposed to be like that. What will you use if you don’t have the reading light?”
“The main light.”
“I suppose you could use the magnifying glass with the light if the print was too small,” I suggested helpfully.
“That’s another thing. That magnifying glass is dangerous. It could explode.”
“It could what?”
“Explode. It says so in the instructions. I don’t know why you got me something dangerous. What were you thinking of.”
“I’ve got one for my sewing. They’re very good.” I picked the box up from the side and searched for the instructions.
“I don’t think that shops are allowed to sell exploding goods,” HWIOO said.
“I know what it says.”
“It says that the batteries need to be disposed of properly. That’s all.”
Is it any wonder that we found ourselves in yet another room of yet another well-known chain of hotels with a toothbrush mug of wine each? Still we’ve got a reading light that might set the house alight and an explosive magnifying glass as well as a quest to find red bulbs that fit in electric fires because apparently modern fires don’t need them. What more could a woman want from life?