To be printed 07/04/11.
"I can smell gas in the kitchen," I tell my boyfriend. And in an unusual twist of events, it isn't coming from him. But, as I'm prone to neurosis and hungry, I cook some bacon to cover it up.
I can smell gas again. This time I decide to take matters into my own hands and test it out - so I get the kitchen lighter, hold it at arms length in the direction of the boiler, and light it. Nothing explodes. So it's probably fine. It's fiiiine.
Flatmates #1 and #2 have both smelled gas in the kitchen too. One smelled it yesterday and one smelled it the day before. I have a headache, which might be the gas but might also be the afternoon I spent eating raw shortbread dough. "It's probably fine," says flatmate. "It's fiiiine."
I call the National Gas Emergency Helpline. Because I do love a bit of drama, and my headache has got worse, and although the boiler passed my cunning lighter test, it's still probably best that we can go to bed as sure as we ever can be that we won't be blown up in the night.
"We can smell gas," I tell the lady on the end of the phone.
"Turn all electric appliances and lights off. Turn the gas off at the meter. Open all windows and keep pets away," she briskly instructs.
"Oh, but we've been using the hob. And the lights. And the telly's on." I tell her. "So it's probably nothing. It's probably fiiine."
"Someone will be there within an hour," she says.
The door buzzer goes (now I come to think of it, another thing we're not meant to be using). "THE GAS MAN'S HERE!" I shout. "QUICK, turn the TV and lights off! It'll look like we're not taking it seriously!"
Gas Man charges in. "Where's the gas meter?" he asks. "Ummm," we say. "We don't know. In the cupboard? Or under the sink? Would you like some shortbread?"
Gas Man doesn't want shortbread, but he does want t know where the meter is. In the end it transpires that the meter is in the yard out the back, which must be accessed through the shop downstairs. So for half an hour we sit in front of River Cottage, occasionally shouting "Are you alright down there?" out of the window and muttering "it's probably fiiiine," to each other.
Well whaddya know, we have a gas leak! A bonafide domestic disaster! Everything is not, as previously suspected, fiiiine - our hob is leaking! Had we not called the emergency helpline, we could have ended up a cautionary tale on a safety advert. I have saved everyone's lives!
"I've had a headache all afternoon," I tell Gas Man, knowingly. "Not from this you won't have," he says. "Domestic gas hasn't been toxic for years." Oh.
Gas Man has turned the gas off. I may have saved everyone's lives, but as a tedious downside I've also left us with no cooker, heating or hot water. The landlord has been called, and told he will need to replace the hob - pronto, before we all freeze and have to resort to wallowing in our own dirt and licking our plates clean then using them again.
We spend several minutes bemoaning all the food that we won't be able to cook, before Gas Man points out that while our hob is gas, our oven is electric. And therefore fine. "Oh," we say. "Of course. We knew that."
Three cold showers and an experimental night with a portable hot plate later, the landlord comes to replace the hob. Except it turns out that the hob doesn't need replacing at all, because the leak is being caused by some old food stuck under one of the gas knobs.
"See?" says flatmate. "I knew it would be fiiiine."
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