Monday, January 14, 2008

Lying Cold and Low

An Spailpín Fánach is having a Bob Cratchitt moment tonight. Bob Cratchit, as you almost certainly know, was the poor dummy in the employ of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ famous short story, A Christmas Carol – whenever Bob wanted to put another lump of coal on the fire, Scrooge would ask him did he, Bob, think he, Ebenezer, was made of money? So poor Bob was sitting there, perished in those scabby mittens the Victorians liked.

An Spailpín Fánach used to feel sorry for Bob in his mittens. Used to – right now, I’d slit Bob Cratchit from neck to gizzard for those very same mittens, as I sit here, shivering, trying to gain such heat as I can from the warm battery of the Dell Inspiron series of laptop computers.

The sitch is this: Last Sunday week, nine days ago and counting, the heating failed in Spailpín Towers. These things happen; I rang the service engineers and they sent a man at the crack of dawn on Tuesday. He sprayed some WD-40 on the fan in the gas boiler, charged me seventy lids and then went on his way. I thought the seventy lids a bit saucy, but as I’ve lived in so many cold houses in my day, I was too grateful to put up an argument.

That gratitude quickly curdled on Tuesday evening, when I returned home to find the damned heat was gone again. Wednesday morning saw a full and frank exchange by telephone between An Spailpín Fánach and his service engineer, the engineer making the point that as the heat had returned when he left, the service engineer’s contract had been fulfilled, while An Spailpín Fánach stuck to his guns that he could be either cold or not down seventy sovs, but not both, as was – and bloody is – currently the case.

I asked the service engineer when he would come around to put in a new fan, the incumbent being cleared busted. And that is when the situation went out of the frying pan and into the deep freeze entirely.

Difficult as it may be to believe, it seems the single most popular piece of mechanical equipment in Dublin this winter is the replacement fan for the Ideal (Ideal is the makers’ name – delicious, isn’t it? Sigh) Classic SE 15 FF wall mounted gas boiler. Forget your X-Boxes and your mobile phones, this fan is where it’s at. So much so, that this particular type of fan cannot be head in the entire city, nor, I believe, in the island of Ireland itself.

Your faithful narrator asked his service provider to pull the other one, on the basis it’s got bells on, when he heard this scéal about the fan that’s modelled on McCavity the Mystery Cat, and promptly phoned an alternative service provider. Picture the terrible dawning of the reality of the situation when I hear the same story from this other joker.

Could it be some sort of joke that the gas engineers of the capital are playing on innocent and gullible Spailpíní Fhánacha? I phoned Ideal Boilers head office, in Kingston Upon Hull, East Yorkshire, HU5 4JN, England, to enquire about these fans that are as won with Willy Wonka's Golden Tickets.

“Yes, they’re a very popular item,” said the nice girl on the other end of the phone. “They’re so popular that we can’t keep up with demand.”

“Well, maybe if you made more of the ******* things you wouldn’t have that ******* problem, you silly, silly girl,” the impeccably polite Spailín Fánach did not say to the girl on the phone – it’s not like she sets company policy, and besides, manners maketh the man, you know.

But manners don’t make much heat and nine days on, frost is forming on the lower slopes of An Spailpín Fánach’s person, and I do not like it. No-one has any idea of when the next fan will be in Dublin – the hunt for the new Irish soccer manager is only in the ha’penny place compared to the hunt for replacement fans for Ideal Classic SE 15 FF wall mounted gas boilers.

In Dombey and Son, also by Dickens, Paul Dombey is horrified to discover that Mr Toodle has named his son “Biler,” after the “biler” that runs the locomotive engines of the railway where good Mr Toodle found employment. A blue-faced Spailpín Fánach finds the naming of a child after a boiler not-at-all remarkable, after nine days’ of living life without one. It’s not something one is likely to forget. William Butler Yeats asks the child dancing in wind what need has she to care / For wind or water’s roar? Easy knowing Yeats must have had storage heating.

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