Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, November 18, 2016

All mod cons

My Auntie Lizzie used to take me to Blackpool when I was a lad. We stayed in B&Bs that advertised hot and cold running water. It was a long time before en suite bathrooms.

In Auntie Lizzie's day people used to say that houses had mod cons - modern conveniences. Our house, the one we live in now, has all those mod cons but they seem to be in open revolt. I told you about the water a while ago.

To sort our water supply we rang the Town Hall. Their people came in a Jeep, wielded a spanner or two, and told me it was all sorted. It wasn't though. Inside the house water flow was still a problem. I called a plumber. He changed a couple of valves and assured me that it was all hunky dory. It wasn't though. I rang our gas contract supplier and asked them to service the boiler. They did, they said it was as right as rain. It wasn't though. They are going to have another stab tomorrow.

A bulb blew. When I took the cover off the lamp I was surprised to find an incandescent bulb. That bulb must have been as old as the room. I thought we had low energy stuff everywhere but, when I checked, I found lots of old style bulbs. I spent a fortune on new ones with really impressive looking energy ratings. I set aside ten minutes, between other jobs, to change the lamps. Changing the light bulbs was a bit like those old shaggy dog jokes - it just went on and on for ever. I even had to replace a couple of fittings.

We have fluorescent tubes in the kitchen. There has always been a delay between flicking the switch, the starters popping and the tubes glowing but the wait had become interminable. It wasn't the first time we'd had the problem. I thought new tubes and starters would get us back to a reasonable response time. In the ironmongers, as I inspected the tubes, Olegario, the owner, interested himself in my purchase. He told me that the tube I had in my hand was LED. Being relatively good at reading I'd worked that out. I picked out a couple of tubes and told him I needed starters too. Olegario knew otherwise and explained that I needed to dump the ballast and starters for the LED tubes to work. Back in our kitchen, with instructions followed, the tubes wouldn't fire up. YouTube told me what Olegario hadn't. The replacement didn't go smoothly but, in the sanitised words of Gordon Hamnet, there was only one winner here and it wasn't the light fitting.

So, changing a few bulbs had taken me several hours.

Over the years we have used various devices to heat our house. Gas stoves - calor gas type heaters - have been our mainstay. After years of faithful service the original batch of three started to do things they shouldn't do. We feared for our lives in an explosion of metal shards from ruptured gas bottles. New gas stoves were purchased. In the meantime Maggie had invested real money in a pellet burner. With the pellet burner as the main heat source and the two newer gas heaters, and the rest, in reserve I thought we had everything covered. Except that the gas heaters have started to mysteriously turn themselves off. Obviously it's some form of safety cut out but our carbon monoxide meter has nothing to say on the matter. Valves and tubes have been changed. Why the heaters turn themselves off is something known only to the Taiwanese or Turks that built the things. Last night, as I got home, the living room radiated coolness. "I can't get either the gas stove or the pellet burner to light," said Maggie. The gas stove was no problem. Maggie just doesn't have the knack but the pellet burner took an hour to sort. Nothing seriously wrong but a pain in the proverbial.

Auntie Lizzie's house only had cold water in the scullery. Her outside toilet was a basically a big pit. The heating was by coal fires. I think she had electric but gas lighting hadn't completely disappeared in my youth so I may be wrong. I'm ever so pleased that things have moved on and we have modern conveniences nowadays.

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