Friday, 2 May 2014

Moving House Blues

Over the past couple of days feelings of déjà vu are seeping and creeping into my dreams and even my waking moments. Ten years ago I moved into my current address, a place I’ve never considered home. One of the reasons I’ve attached no feelings of domesticity to the property is the hassle I endured when moving into the place.

Back then Lambeth agreed to do certain enabling works to allow for my disabilities and waived the rent for a number of weeks prior to my moving in. Which was just as well considering the nightmares I was to face trying to get an electricity connection.

On receiving the keys to the flat, prior to the enabling works, I needed a floor put in as well as decorating carried out. First things first, I opened an account with British Gas (BG). However, there was no electric power coming into the flat. The lights didn’t work nor did the electrical sockets – and the little wheel on the meter wasn’t going round and round the way it would if there was power.

Back on the blower to BG, explained little wheel static. Yes, all the fuses were pointing the correct way…up. But they maintained they were supplying me from there end. This was not their issue it was a problem for the landlord to sort out – Lambeth Council.

Chatted to my housing officer advised me to sign up with an energy supplier – tosser. After explaining my conversation with my supplier, BG, he gave me an over-the-phone-shrug-of-the-shoulders stating that Lambeth had carried out its obligations.

Back to BG I go, a little despondent with my faith in humanity a bit dented but not at major motorway pile-up level yet – this would come about in painful increments over a period of 22-days. BG were awfully sorry to hear of my dilemma; they took another butchers at my account and carrying out a conscious Pontius batted me back to my landlord.

This toing and froing continued for another few gruelling sets before an umpire (a third party I’d got involved so as to salvage a soupcon of sanity) suggested that Lambeth re-checks the electric power to my flat. The electric engineers, the Wild Bunch or Magnificent Seven as I recall, were called back; after doing their tests they reported that all sockets and light fittings were A OK and in working order.

The only problem was, nothing worked. Light bulbs shed no light upon switching the switch. The radio emitted no sound upon hitting the on button. The hob no heat did it throw out when flicking the switch. Indeed, the little wheel in the meter cupboard stubbornly lay still as though in a torpor unable to complete a revolution.

“What can we do?” Whined the Wild Bunch moseying on out of my flat down the road apace. But of course the manager had a solution, that’s why he spent the inspection on his mobile having the craic with a mate while his desperadoes carried out the work. “We’ll get EDF in. This is obviously a problem that’s on the outside of the property – or in other words, we haven’t got a Scooby what we’re doing let’s mug the billy bunter off with someone else.

In other words they had carried out two electrical tests of the premises; and though finding everything in order on both occasions, and signing certificate to this effect. They were now saying the fact I had no power was due to external influences – outside the drum. Yet all sockets, etc inside the drum were registering live.
Along comes EDF to check the outside electrical ting and ting. Big geezer comes to my door and hands me a very large fuse, about the size of a 1.6 v battery. “Here you go mate. Nuthing wrong wiv yer fews. See, clean as nun’s conscience”.

Indeed, it was.

So, looking at the meter, which was still, well still. Flicking a light switch, and there being no light I asked the electrician why the meter wasn’t working and the lights not coming on.

“Not ma problem, cheef” chirps this fidgeter of fuse boxes. “It’s inside yer ‘ouse; I only do outside”.

“Any ideas where or what?” I quiz; attempting to tantalizingly trick him into giving up the secret of the missing leccy from 25 Pisspot Way.

“Well, it could be…” as he launched into the lingua franca of Sparkyland.

“Whoa, slow down. Let me write this down. Just a minute.” I pleaded.

“…behind yer fuse panel”. He finished as he turned on his heel and naffed off.

“Hang on. I didn’t get any of that. Give me a fucking break, pal”. I pled. Had I bled it wouldn’t have moved this smug bastard. The kind of fucker who measures his pleasure by the misery of mourning mothers.

Lines of demarcation have a place within our industries; teachers should teach children; nurses nurse sick people; chippies swing doors; plasters spread walls; brickies to do things with frogs that brickies do; and electricians to wire up.

However, I wasn’t asking this guy to come into my place and do the work of another tradesperson. No, I was pleading with him to impart his knowledge in lay language so as I could get my problem sorted.

Anyhow, another couple of days went by. The third party assisting me managed to get the electrical engineers out, for a third time. At first they ignored me as I pointed to the meter uttering “the problems in the meter cupboard!”

No, they went through their esoteric rituals of poking their devices around sockets and gaining great satisfaction when a light lit up the device. It was their version of the entrails of a dead goat giving out an auspicious reading.

Satisfied with a job well done they attempted to leave the flat. No way Pedro. They were not going to pass until the wheel on my meter went round, round, round.

“The meter. Check the fucking meter. The problem is with the meter!” I screamed. By now I was frantic. This was after all day 22 without electric. “You’re not leaving here until there is electricity in this fucking place!” Roared a man teeting on the edge of a breakdown.

Slumping on the floor with my back covering the lower half of the front door, thus blocking their exit I sat, daring them to even try leaving without looking in the meter cupboard a couple of feet away.

“You’ll have to fucking kill me if you want to leave. And you know what? At this point in time I don’t give a fucking monkey’s for myself. So the choice is yours.” All said with a steely calmness; a kind of acceptance of my fate. The resignation of a beaten man.

“Alright mate, calm down. I’ll have a look but don’t blame me if the fault isn’t in the meter. My money’s on the ‘Erbert from EDF bollixing it up”.
Sparky opens the door of the meter. Whips out his trusty sparky-driver and whips off the panel over the fuses and says:

“Oh, yeh of course its blah blah sparky lingo…there you go mate, problem sorted…”

Flick! On comes a light. A radio in another rooms springs to life. The sparks help me up and I watch, with tears in my eyes the meter almost imperceptibly turn, the start of a revolution.

Almost ten years on from this very distressing situation I’m moving house again. Guess what? No, I have electricity in the flat. This time nobody, that is Ovo (my new supplier, EDF nor Which?Switch (who have a database containing a record of all energy suppliers and customer addresses) can find any trace of gas ever being supplied to the property.

All three have told me to get a MPRN (a meter point reference number) which is a unique number to a given meter and from this they can determine who supplied gas to the previous tenant.

After several days I discovered my gas meter resided in a kitchen cupboard, too low for me to access. But even if I could, what does a MPRN look like? It’s a series of numbers, I’m reliably informed by someone who works for an energy company and is familiar with the jargon and ways of her sector.

With this handy tip in ascertaining MPRN’s I take several photographs of the gas meter. One figure, 2005 followed by a colon and six numbers, isn’t the series of figures I need. Obviously the meter reading itself doesn’t qualify as a MPRN due to its mutability. Then aside from stickers with dates on them, maintenance information, there are no other numbers visible on the apparatus.

While I’m being batted to and from various energy suppliers and allied trades I’m explaining to my housing officer (HO) that I have a real problem developing. The HO, an extremely helpful young woman repeatedly assures me the problem will be sorted, before I move in on Wednesday next, 7th May.

Somewhere down the chain, as it transpires, there is talk of the previous tenant having used an independent gas supplier. This explains why each time I’m asked for my address the energy company agent cannot find any record of gas being supplied to property.

“Are you sure you have the right address?” I’m patronised.

“Well if it isn’t, I’ve been doing a burglar Bill turn for the past week” I respond in an concealed attempt at light banter – the fact I’m hitting high notes as I spit out my responses is a bit of a giveaway.

“OK. And you’re sure it’s a gas meter?” She inflects in that falling fashion made fashionable by Aussie soaps.

“Gas meter? I thought I was arranging a funeral for Fluffyfattybum my recently departed Liptov Baldspotted Rabbit!” drawled I, not attempting to mask the sarcasm.

“Sorry, what was that?” comes back she lazily, with equally indifference as she lavishly laced her mocking mock question.

“Yes, it’s a gas meter. Several things suggest this including the SI unit for gas measurement. But mainly the words Gas Meter printed on the device”. Spoken without irony as by now the fun had escaped from the situation and I was coming down from the natural high generated when I enter a fight.  

It’s late now. My problems are unresolved. There is little or nothing I can do until Tuesday, the day before I move into the new property.

So fuck everything.

I’m going to do something I’ve not done for a long time.

I’m going into my living room and get rat-arsed, hollering and hooting, tearing and swearing, rabble rousing, neighbour disturbing, beastly drunk!
You notice I’m referring to the new property as ‘home’. Because if I have the same problems as before it may never become my home, just another flat in which I rest my head.

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