A day of multiple procedures

Following on from last month’s fun that almost saw the accidental death of a meter man and the burning down of the property, they came back today to put right what once went wrong. To be fair it wasn’ t them that did it wrong originally, it was whoever wired this place up when the flats were converted in the 70s. But, damage had been caused and “as a gesture of goodwill” the meter men agreed to do all the remedial work on a no liability basis.

Well, okay, if you twist my arm.

For reasons lost in the mists of time, the meters are 10 feet up in the air behind hatches that hinge at the top. I’m sure it all made sense to the same people who thought it would be a wheeze to daisy chain the four neutral feeds in the first place. Advanced technology is needed to keep the hatches open while work goes on: any similarity to a long handled pair of clippers perched on top of a green box is purely coincidental.

I love hard work: I can watch it for hours, especially when it involves people doing open heart surgery on my home. All those wires, carefully disconnected, paired up and either reconnected or in some cases discarded (there was at least one completely redundant fusebox in there too, not to mention a large red switch marked NIGHT STORAGE HEATER, which none of us has) and made to work safely again. I may jest, but on the other hand if all the electricians and all the editors in the world suddenly vanished tomorrow, I know for a fact who would be missed first.
And because I was going to be in anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to book Dynorod in for the same day. An obstruction had been detected in the drains and they needed to put a camera down to have a look.
My thinking this was a good idea lasted until the man’s opening words: “do you have access to a power socket?” Biscuits. I assumed the equipment worked off batteries: as indeed it should, only the batteries had drained on his last job. Fortunately he was able to pick up a generator from a colleague and still do the required endoscopy. So now I know what the inside of our drains look like.

And should I ever forget, apparently we get a DVD! The long winter evenings are going to fly by.


So we got a letter from persons acting on behalf of our electricity supplier, bzztpower PLC, saying they needed to replace our meter. I know from previous attempts to do this that our meter and the meters of our neighbours above and below are connected in a stack with ours at the top, so disconnecting us will also disconnect them. So, I let them know the work is going to happen: you’re getting a 20 minute power cut on Wednesday morning. Any problems? Excellent.

Meter Man arrives. We turn off everything in the flat. He mounts his ladder. He gets to work on the collection of meters in the porch. He removes a very large fusey type thing. Downstairs Neighbour sticks his head out of the door and shouts that his equipment is smoking. I can’t see his face in the gloom of the hall and assume he’s joking.

He isn’t …

It’s not only smoking, it’s smoking quite excitingly: clouds of strangely clear white smoke as if someone inside is spraying out very fine talc. Playstation, TV, laptop all fritzed.

Supervisor is called, from Somerset via Reading so I’m impressed by how soon he arrives. Eventually establishes that not only are the meters wired up in series, they’re also non-compliant. Rather than each having a neutral feed of their own, they share a single neutral feed that goes through all three meters. This is the kind of thing frowned upon by the better class of meter man, as disconnecting the neutral feed from our flat therefore also removed it from the other two flats and they got the full blast of 415 volts. Top flat has a breaker which immediately tripped (astonishing; last year’s East European cowboys that caused us so much entertainment and diversiondid something right) and so the flat was protected, but downstairs flat started tripping in quite another way. And if Meter Man had touched the end of the neutral feed, he too would have started smoking; at least, in the brief period of contact before he got thrown thirty feet away, but his passage through the air would probably have extinguished any flames.

NotNorthernLeccy, who supply the other two flats, are called as our guy isn’t allowed to open up another supplier’s meter and together they make a go at rewiring the whole meter caboodle, before working out that they’re outclassed by the needs of the wiring. To cut a long story short, after much head scratching and discussion, we will need a local electrician to do quite a bit of rewiring (the meter guys only do meters), plus representatives from bzztpower and NotNorthernLeccy to rewire the meters, and this will all need to happen on the same day, starting quite early, if it’s all going to be done during hours of warmth and daylight. Meanwhile the insurance companies of bzztpower and NotNorthernLeccy are expected to have a pleasant game of pingpong with Downstairs Neighbour’s claim for the slagged gear. Fun, fun, fun.

It occurs to me that plumbers might get cold and wet sometimes, but they would have to try very hard to die just by touching the wrong pipe.

Our one source of energy, the ultimate discovery

Came home yesterday to a message on the answerphone. The five second silence that tells me it’s an automated call, followed by a sweet old lady’s voice saying this was an automated call from a company whose name I didn’t catch “on behalf of your electricity supplier”. Please could I phone up with a meter reading, or alternatively enter it at a URL that I also didn’t get. It really was a crackly recording.

Hmm. They’re calling on behalf of my electricity supplier yet can’t actually name the company. My electricity supplier can’t make a call like this itself. I suspect a cunning plan to enmesh me in a conversation that will lead to my changing suppliers to whoever is behind this little scheme.

Sadly it’s probably not illegal, apart from the outright lie of “on behalf of your electricity supplier”. There’s no law that says you can’t ask someone for a meter reading, or try to persuade them to change suppliers. But no, I don’t think I will be making that phone call. If it’s genuine they’ll try again. And the worst they can do is cut m-