Do you remember the Flanders and Swann song 'Twas on a Monday Morning that the Gasman came to call' which told the saga of a succession of workmen each of whom arrived, mucked up the work of the guy from the day before, and went away to be replaced next morning by another cowboy? There have been several weeks or more between each of our muckings-up, and none of our tradesman is a cowboy, but the pattern was reminiscent.
In November, Colin the Chippy nicked a buried-in-the-wall electric cable when he was drilling a hole for a rawl plug in Jo's bedroom. This gave Andy Spark Boy ample opportunity to grumble, but no harm was done either to Colin or the electricity supply. In December Martin the Damp nailed through a water pipe in my kitchen which caused some small flood and much hilarity from the passers by. To commemorate the occasion Martin cut out the piece of damaged pipe with the intruding nail still in situ, mounted it on a small piece of wood and inscribed it 'Martin's Bad Day'. It sits in pride of place on my mantlepiece like some piece of Haywood Gallery miniature sculpture, and is much admired.
The last Thursday in January, Poor Gary - not one of our accustomed merry band but a lovely man and very good at his job - arrived to lay a piece of new vinyl floor covering in my minute hall. While first repairing a loose floor board, he hammered a nail through a gas pipe. I heard a great roaring noise worthy of Hardraw Force when the Beck is in flood, and a frightened squawk coming from Poor Gary who was standing beside the offended pipe looking like a pallid and not very well set jelly. "I've nailed though a gas pipe." he said. As this was palpably obvious I didn't stop to comment.
There are gas taps in a cupboard in the main hall, but my fingers proved too feeble to turn them off. So I scuttled back into my hall and said quite briskly I had to get down stairs to the meter cupboards in the front area. Poor Gary now turning a very rich shade of ruby red, twittered unintelligibly, but remained rooted to his spot which made it difficult for me to get back into the hall and impossible for me to get to the staircase. At this point I lost my usual polite cool and said very crisply: "Get out of the way please, I have to go down stairs." This in my very best nasty schoolmarm manner. Fortunately it worked. He moved and I went down the stairs faster than I would have thought now possible.
Everything was fine after that. I turned off my gas; opened all the outside doors and most of the windows; phoned the Gas Board emergency number; put on two layers of fleece over the top of my very ample chunky sweater and sat down to wait for expert help, which was not very long in coming. Poor Gary spent the rest of the day doing a Uriah Heap, alternately wringing his hands in apology and protesting how upset he had been/was/always would be. This was very understandable but all quite unnecessary as my only abiding emotion was one of some small satisfaction that I, as the family’s most distinguished wimp in even the least dire situation, had for once contrived to keep my my head, do the right thing and best of all quickly regained my customary sense of humour.