Mr T, who came before Mr G, in my dyslexic litany of marriages, once offered to move a boiler for me so that I could squeeze another piece of kitchen equipment into the resulting space. The offer came as a surprise to both of us; he wasn’t noted for his utilitarian qualities.
A full quorum of brothers were commanded to attend; Scousers operate in packs when faced with hard work, it spreads the load, with luck each one will only have to lift the occasional drinking arm.
Given the limited space currently occupied by the boiler, three of them were exceptionally lucky, there was only space for No 1 brother to actually do anything, leaving the other three free to sit round the kitchen table dishing out advice. It’s thirsty work, advising an amateur plumber.
Eventually the only two bolts were undone; reluctant and by then somewhat inebriated advisors were commanded to lift the appliance into its new position, and lots were drawn as to who would undertake the arduous task of reconnecting it.
One by one they crawled under the counter, cursed, swore, invoked the patron saint of all Liverpudlians, St. OurKid’llDoit, and retired defeated. Finally the brains of the outfit crawled under the counter (otherwise known as No 2 brother if you’re interested) and delivered his technical assessment to the impressed audience – ‘you need a 3/8th whitworth to 5mm connector’, or words to that effect. The exact dimensions are mercifully lost to the memory of distant marriages.
A spare brother, all seats round the table now occupied, was despatched to the local ironmongers to acquire such an item. He returned empty handed. Next in line was duly despatched to the local garage. He too returned disgusted with the lack of availability of 3/8th whitworth to 5mm connectors, but had had the good sense to call in at the off-licence and pick up fresh supplies the better to reconnect the assembled neurons, shared out as they were between four craniums.
After much deliberation, No 2 brother, possessor of the only complete brain cell, stumbled out to his car and drove to a nearby forge. There he commanded manufacture of such a connector. In no time at all it was assembled, and after a quick snifter in the Dog and Ferret to bolster his courage, returned triumphant. Elated at their enterprise, they quickly fitted the offending beast, turned the gas and water back on, retired to the kitchen table, and sat staring uncomprehendingly as water poured out of every available orifice – the gas cooker, the gas fire, and indeed the gas boiler.
T’was then I returned. Being on a somewhat higher intellectual plane, if I say so myself, I requested, very politely under the circumstances, that the water be turned off.
I turned on the tap to fill the kettle, and in a split nano second diagnosed the problem they had been so puzzled by. If the water was coming out of the gas fire, where was the gas? I also threw all five of them out into the garden, heavy smokers one and all, and ran with the speed of light to a neighbour to phone the Gas Board.
The Gas Board arrived and phoned for the Water Board. They were puzzled to discover the Gas meter full of water, rather than Bingo tokens, lengths of wire and the odd grudgingly inserted 2 bob piece – even in Liverpool water was unusual.
Two sets of engineers peered under the counter.
‘Bloody Hell’ said set one to set two.
‘Where’d’ya get that connector?’
‘Had it made’ said No 2 proudly, if a little unsteadily.
‘Couldn’t buy one then our La?’
‘That still doesn’t stop them though, does it’ said set two to set one.
‘What do I do now’ said No 1 brother.
‘If I were you laddy, I’d stick me ‘ead in the oven and drown yerself’ was the historic reply.
The point of this tale was that Murphy’s Law was invented for situations like this. Amateur plumbers, and indeed the old fashioned variety of professional plumbers, those artefacts before they went all monarchic and Corgiified, were protected from connecting the mains water to the gas oven by the simple expedient of not making connectors that would enable you to do so – you weren’t expected to have a full set of brain cells, just work with the tools and parts provided and you couldn’t go wrong.
You’re wondering where I am going with this aren’t you? Actually just amusing myself, but tag along for the ride, you’re welcome.
Somewhere in the last 40 years, plumbers no longer learnt from their Father or their elder brother, they went to classes, got certificates and everything. Wore boiler suits to protect their Sunday jeans an’ all they did.
Not enough for 2011, No Siree! What has set me off today this morning is that I discovered an Academy, an academy no less, of plumbing has been set up. Scottish Gas are now training ‘an army’ of ‘engineers’ to ‘support a sustainable, modern, low-carbon economy’.
Housing and communities minister Alex Neil said: “[Scottish Gas’s] Green Academies will provide people with the right skills to work in the rapidly expanding eco sector. This offers opportunities for a whole new generation of young people – a green army for Scotland – helping to support a sustainable, modern, low-carbon economy.”
I get this image of blonde, blue eyed Scottish youngsters in matching green shirts and Lederhosen marching across the glens to the stirring bagpipe sound of ‘Mobilising Gaia for Copenhagen in ‘C’ minor’. I see neighbour reported unto area co-coordinator for failing to install solar heating, I see wind farms in every school yard. I see elderly men dragged out of their homes at dawn for daring to set fire to a lump of coal in the dead of night. I foresee a future in which every Scottish youngster will attend University for the approved degree in ‘flogging atmospheric carbon dioxide monitors’ to fearful households as the minimal entry requirement for admission to the Green Army.
What will we do for plumbers then?
No Corgi’s were harmed in the making of this post.