A bad time of year: dogged by failure

It has been suggested that in the last blog-post I misinterpreted the instruction on the trains completely.  Instead of requiring customers to place litter in the bins they are instead required to dispose of the litter which is already in the bins, presumably placed there for the purpose by rail staff.  This interpretation is perfectly logical and backed by some evidence, albeit circumstantial.  I’m afraid I was blinkered by the assumption, based on prejudice I admit, that organisations seek to place responsibility for action, and blame for failure to comply, on customers rather than accepting it themselves. It may indeed be the intention of the rail company to overcome the burden and the cost of disposing of the litter itself by passing the task on to customers.  After all, individuals can dispose of waste for no additional charge on their Community Tax whereas commercial organisations have to pay commercial rates for disposal.

I shall check next time I’m on the train whether the uniformed guys going around with black sacks are filling up the bins or emptying them.  Maybe rather than failing to put litter in the bins I have in fact been failing to empty them.  And, dreadful thought, it may be that this is what is putting up the cost of rail fares.  Few things are more demoralising than finding out that you have been failing in the wrong way, that you are the wrong kind of failure.

Long-time blog junkies may remember that at some stage in the past I banged on about the problems I have been having with my ‘new’ combi boiler.  I remember it because following that post I received e-mail correspondence from quite a few people telling me how good theirs was.

But for us the early omens were not good.  Installed on 31 January 2007 the boiler didn’t work.  At all !!!  We had no heat or hot water until 5 February when the manufacturer’s service team came and found that the mother board needed to be replaced (these combi boilers are very high tech and computer controlled).  For all of that time we made do with the log fire, a kettle and a tea urn borrowed from church and balanced on the end of the bath on a wooden frame which I knocked together.  Not very health-and-safety but at least we could have a bath …. of sorts.

From that point on there have been constant problems with the boiler, in particular with getting hot water.  Engineers have been back to try to resolve the issue many, many times.  Couldn’t even get a reliable flow of hot water into the kitchen sink which is only 2 metres away from the boiler.  It was absolutely pointless trying to use the downstairs shower.  It was such an embarrassment offering apologies when visitors came to stay that I have decided to spend a not inconsiderable sum of money on running armoured high tension cable around the outside of the house and installing an electric shower down there.

However, the problem is not just with my boiler because I think there is a fundamental flaw with the whole concept of combi boilers.  The stock joke is that they are called ‘combination’ boilers because they are a random combination of working and not working.  In my case the problem was made worse by the fact that last year I had a water meter fitted.  My water bills dropped from £57 a month to £15.  But, unless the central heating is on, I’m pouring vast numbers of gallons of water down the drain just to try to fill the washing-up bowl.  This is because the water heating is triggered by turning on the tap.  Turn the tap off, the sensor in the boiler then switches off and the heating stops.  So the entire cold water contents of the boiler have to be poured down the drain before any hot water comes out of the tap.

The only way to overcome this wastage is to turn the central heating on thereby filling the boiler, and the pipes and radiators, with hot water.  But it cannot be very efficient to turn the central heating on just to do the washing up!! Or wash my hands!!!  It saves water but wastes gas.  I haven’t done the sums to work out which costs more but I suspect that it’s the gas.  I don’t like wastage of any kind on principle.  Months ago I gave up and started using a kettle.  Crazy!

But I digress.  The problems with my particular boiler have just suddenly and unexpectedly got immeasurably and dramatically worse. A failure of epic proportions.  At the moment I have no central heating and no hot water.  At all !!!

The reason?  A visit by an engineer two weeks ago to try yet again to sort out the water heating problem and to repair a leak from the boiler succeeded for the first time in getting a steady supply of hot water to the kitchen sink. As long as the central heating was turned on.   Which was very good.  A major step forward in this protracted saga.  But after he left the leak seemed to be worse.  I had to position washing-up bowls underneath to catch the dripping and had to empty them every couple of days.

Temperatures were forecast to drop below zero on Friday night.  The house is cold and becoming colder despite having a log fire in one room and a gas heater in another room.  I can’t have a bath and can only wash by boiling kettles.  This is worse than when I lived in a terraced house in Salford with no bathroom or inside toilet.  At least then we had a galvanised bath which we put in front of the fire once a week and boiled water in an old blackened kettle and saucepans to fill it.  That was always enjoyable, luxurious even in front of the coal fire.  Looking back from my present predicament to that time perhaps my whole life has been a failure.

Adversity cannot be ignored and I faced the issue squarely.  I ran away back up North for the weekend to a warm house where I could have a hot bath.

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