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WARD'S WORLD: The Christmas gas leak

This coming Christmas is going to be very exceptional due to events during this past year so any ideas as to how it will go this year are debatable.

However, one memorable Christmas some years ago was when I was still living at home with my parents as the following is a mere snatch of the events that unfolded at that festive time called Christmas Eve.

That morning has been quite normal for those into ‘headless chicken’ situations as things that should have been sorted, or at least had some semblance of normality to them had not gone to plan, but it was now after lunch that things were really happening.

Reconstruction of the event (43622404)
Reconstruction of the event (43622404)

First was neighbour Monica who appeared at the back door – it was easier to nip through the rear garden fence, then clout the back door to gain attention as opposed to the long way – or possibly the scenic route – to our front door.

She outlined she was possibly a victim of MPS (Missing Parcel Syndrome) as something she was expecting had not so far arrived and wondered if we had got a parcel delivered by mistake.

Mum, of the people for the people, said that all the post we had that week had been delivered by our normal postie, Reg, but nothing had been delivered by a Miss Thake, whoever she was.

Mon then sat down, fretted a lot, but after a cup of tea then departed to check on other houses down the road ‘just in case’ her parcel might be there.

Next the phone rang as mum picked it up and said she couldn’t answer it to whoever was calling as we didn’t have a phone as she put the receiver down.

Less than a minute later it rang again – it was the same caller apparently but mum explained we didn’t have a phone as we were waiting for the telephone people to fix it so could the caller get off the line so they could do the job.

After putting the phone down once again, a few minutes later the same caller rang to say that he was the steward of the local working men’s club and could we ‘fetch your granddad Cyril’ as he was ‘rather worse for wear’ due to his early celebrating of Christmas.

Mum said we had two known granddads in the family, with one who had now fallen asleep in the lounge on the sofa while watching the telly.

In the other instance granddad number two was beyond any fetching as they don’t mess about at the crematorium unless procedures had changed in the intervening seven years, but neither of them was called Cyril.

However, mum being curious, asked how the caller had got our number with the reply it was written on a piece of paper with the name ‘Michael’ they found in his top jacket pocket as he was basically incoherent but managed to say that Michael was his grandson.

While this mystery of sorts was going on, there was a knock on the front door from somebody who had seemingly travelled the scenic route to be there, who turned out to be the telephone engineer to tell us the phone was now fixed.

Mum said we were already aware as we had since gained a granddad called Cyril we didn’t have before it was fixed to which the engineer’s eyes bulged as he said it might be his granddad.

He explained that he had given his granddad, called Cyril, our number as the one to call if he needed a lift home after lunch from – you guessed it – the working men’s club as we were his only job that day before he started his holidays plus his name was Michael.

Mystery solved as he spoke to the steward and to hold on to Cyril as he would get round as quick as he could to pick him up.

Next Mon arrived back to tell us her parcel had turned up five houses down and all was well –or so we thought.

Sitting there slooping another cup of tea, with her parcel by her feet, she then started visually sniffing the air as she asked could we smell gas?

So we all stood there, sniffing like mad, with the joint agreement being that we all could slightly smell something.

Next suspicion pointed to Tiddles, the family cat, all curled up on her cushion supposedly fast asleep as mum gently wandered over and after sniffing feverishly around her sleeping away announced: ‘It’s not her – her tail hasn’t moved’ (?!).

Anyway, mum said she could not cook the Christmas day dinner on ‘half wind’ gas as it had to be a full pressure dollop or nothing.

Next up was an emergency call to the then gas board where the novelty of actually speaking to a real live person without going through an insidious ‘menu’ was not an option as this was REAL customer service then. The ‘gas lady’ said that any reports of gas leaks were a priority, so a ‘key engineer would be dispatched’ as soon as she put the phone down. It was after eight thirty that (Christmas Eve) evening our ‘key engineer’ arrived as a thump was heard at the front door as dad went to see who it was.

Standing there with his canvas bag of tools was our ‘key engineer’ who introduced himself as Ronnie but we could call him Ron (there were cutbacks even then it seemed) as he explained he came as soon as he ‘got the call’.

Dad asked if there was much fog in Dover as it was only five hours since our call.

Ron said he was really busy but came as fast as he could as then a funny sounding thump was heard against the front wall of the house as dad went to see what it was.

He came back to say somebody had dumped a delivery bike against our wall and it had slid down it.

Ron said it was his as he only lived two streets away plus: ‘I know it sounds cheeky, but some folk do – or can – offer me a drink so I don’t have to drink and drive...’ to which mum said nobody had ever got sloshed on her cups of tea.

Anyway, he too sniffed about, then got his equipment out, then progressed from the kitchen to the meter cupboard in the hallway before announcing: ‘You’ve got a leak!’

Mum said we didn’t need, by now, a ninth opinion as just getting it fixed would be nice. It seems one of the ‘gland joints on the main feed’ had deteriorated – or the rubber seal had perished on the coupling to be precise.

He said he could fix it quite easily as he then said we would not want ‘The service (Trench Diggers Anonymous) coming out on Christmas morning to dig your front garden up, looking for the leak otherwise!’

Mum said his cup of tea was getting smaller by the minute as he then asked how we noticed it as she said it might have been Tiddles as usual ‘breaking wind’ but as her tail had not moved it must be a gas leak.

So that was our own Christmas tail from years past. Have a Merry Christmas.

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