Home » Ain't life great. » A bad case of flue

A bad case of flue

I’m often accused of excessive negativity.

Unfairly, in my view.

In olden days I might have been diagnosed with a melancholic disposition. But I have always thought expecting the worst was a useful strategy for avoiding disappointment.

And in any case, beneath the melancholy lurks a choleric temperament. I get angry about stuff, especially the world. Only I am in reality generally phlegmatic about my current state of being; which is to say, stoically resigned to living in a perpetual state of suspension. The choler is just an outlet for the fiery substance within. Take no notice.

Earth, air, fire, water. You name it, I’ve got ’em.

Spiritually inclined, non-scientific people tend to the belief that excessive negativity can build up and start to affect your surroundings. I’m starting to think that might be true. Whatever strategies I adopt for moving forward are continually stymied by people telling me I would be better off doing nothing.

Take the gas installation quotations man. He’s just left with a cup of heart-stoppingly sweet tea inside him, after convincing me not to spend money on a new, more efficient, eco-friendly central-heating boiler (£400 OFF if you BOOK before 29 February!). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, is his motto.

It’s too complicated. There’s only four feet of flue between the boiler cupboard and the outside wall, and it is encased in plasterboard and tiles. But no inspection cover. Although there’s practically nothing to inspect, nothing to go wrong, modern regulations state that every flue has to have an inspection cover somewhere, even when it is only four feet long. Extra expense is involved in installing a new boiler in my house. It will cost thousands to put in both a new boiler and a new flue.

Just sell the house, was his advice. Along with the perfectly good boiler, that the annual service engineer I am expecting any minute will have to condemn as unsafe, because there’s no inspection cover for the flue; and because the boiler is 13 years old. It predates modern regulations.

The annual engineer will stick another red warning label on it, saying UNSAFE – Do Not Use This Appliance, because the modern regulation says he has to. And it is illegal for me to remove it. But he will tip me the wink: it’s fine, don’t worry, your boiler is working perfectly well, and within its operational safety margins. It’s a really good boiler. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s perfectly safe. Wink.

So whoever comes to buy my house will see the red warning label and want money off, because the central heating is unsafe and not working. Although it isn’t. And it is. But the advice of the man who sells boilers is not to waste money buying a new one…. You are starting to see my point. My boiler is like Schroedinger’s Cat: simultaneously both dead and/or alive, until you open the box.

That reminds me of an ancient TV quiz show from the days of black and white. You answered a question correctly and Michael Miles let you choose whether or not to ‘Open the box!’, while the studio audience screamed encouragement. You didn’t know what prize was inside, a quark or a lepton; stuff or cash. It could have gone either way…

In any case, I do not have thousands to spend on a new boiler.

I have been planning to sell the house, as you know, but no-one at all comes to look at it. No-one who has been here, not even the gas installations quotations man sipping his sweet tea in the kitchen, can understand why not. It’s a perfectly nice little house. Nor would he take out the annoying partition wall, if he were me, to open up the downstairs.

So I have decided: I shall either stay, or I shall go. (Libra. Decisiveness is not one of our key personality traits.)

If I stay, I reason, then I should do a few things to update my little house, which is looking a little tired after 27 months on the market. Like update the dangerous central-heating boiler that is working fine. But first I need to find more money.

So the previous man in the kitchen, wisely sipping unsweetened coffee, the pensions sage from the helpful retirement specialists, ran through a few calculations and advised me, no, don’t bother remortgaging. It’s not a good time. It’s too expensive. You probably would be refused a mortgage anyway. You don’t have enough pension. Then he drove 100 miles home to his family, without a sale.

It’s the modern regulations, he explained, when you are a retired person banks are not allowed to look at your investments, your part-time earnings, the hugely advantageous loan-to-value ratio, the holes in your socks, your miserly little dribbly outgoings: they are allowed only to look at your basic minimal pension income.

Your income flue too needs an inspection cover!

So now I have no money to do anything, anyway.

Which is a shame, because I’d like to pay off my overdraft, my car loan. And go jazz singing in August.

The gas quotations man tells me, installing a new boiler and a new flue will cost, ooh, three and a half thousand. Our labour is much more expensive than anyone else’s. If you must buy a new boiler, find a gas fitter down the road to do it cheaper. Then he too leaves happily, without making a sale, having given a pensioner some good advice about boilers, and drives fifty-seven miles home.

It is getting harder and harder to spend the money I haven’t yet got.

Shortly after he leaves, the annual engineer arrives and looks puzzled: he does not agree with the boiler salesman’s estimate, but never mind. He sticks on the danger notice, hands me a sheet of paper on which every aspect of my boiler’s performance has been ticked as satisfactory, and leaves: a hospital is calling him, they have a problem with their boiler. A different one, theirs is probably unsafe and not working.

The mortgage sage tells me, a standard equity release plan (a mortgage you don’t have to pay back until you are dead) will also cost three and a half thousand. So if you are planning to sell the house and go before you die, he advises, then just sell the house and go. Don’t buy a mortgage. Don’t waste the three and a half thousand, plus the maybe six thousand more they will charge you to get out of it if you decide to sell the house before you die.

Okay, but I am sanguine about the prospect of that happening. No-one even comes to look at my house. So I am staying put, yes? Or no. If yes, however, I need the money…

And both men, and everyone else, say to me, why do you not just let your house out and go and rent somewhere, wherever you want to live?

Yes, they think I too can be in two places at once, like my safe and unsafe boiler. Like an entangled pair of photons, playing fast and loose with Einsteinian space-time. Except I’m not an entangled pair anymore. It’s just me, Hunzi and Scat, my expensive guitar, my jazz CDs and Avi the avocado tree.

Who else, what fool, might decide to declutter, and start by selling the entire house, with nowhere to go?

What else, apart from a pre-owned PRS Hollowbody 11 guitar, Artist Pack, will cost three and a half thousand, I wonder?

Might it not be worth taking the choleric/phlegmatic approach and just buy the fucking guitar on the instalment plan, instead of messing about trying to mortage the house with its dangerous gas fittings, just so you can buy a smart new kitchen, a new bedroom carpet (what persuaded them to think white?), and fix the garden fence before you die? Instead of selling the entire house and having nowhere to go?

You clearly have no real intention of going anywhere, have you.

My little house is more full of excessive negativity today than it is of carbon monoxide. Even more coffee (no sugar) cannot dispel my melancholic disposition this wet and windy morning.

Where to go? What to do?

There must be a website somewhere.




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