So I shuffle downstairs; yes, a gassy sort of smell, in the vicinity of a sleepy labrador. No gas taps left on at the cooker, so perhaps it's just canine digestion at work.
"Flossie, what have you been eating!" She thumps her tail and goes back to sleep. And so I open the door from the hall into the soon-to-be-utility and plod back upstairs to bed. I am faintly uneasy, but obviously more than faintly stupid at that time in the morning. Smell of gas? Aw, just go back to bed.
7.30 a.m. and there's a very strong smell of gas throughout the house. Definitely town gas, nothing canine about it. I catapult downstairs, throw every door and window open, grab the big torch (I may be stupid, but I always know where the torch is!) and turn the gas off at the meter, which, coincidentally, is currently having a cupboard built to hide it. (And for those of you who wondered, the boarded-up window is away being replicated with one that will fit.)
Before I ring the gas-emergency number, I text the builder's surveyor, who arrives super-fast - after all, it is his men who are pulling the house apart, and who removed an old and defunct gas pipe from the utility room, sealed the gap, and concreted over it, two days ago. He smells gas too, and summons the plumbers urgently. We agree that it emanates from the utility room, and I fear that by opening the door in the night, far from airing the smell away, I simply allowed gas to flow freely into the rest of the house. That's the old pipe below, on the left.
Within minutes, two plumbers are here, sniffing in a professional sort of manner, although one has just had a cigarette and the other one has a cold, and declaring that they can't smell
I overhear the boss plumber telling the emergency engineer that I had detected a slight smell. I find myself reiterating with increasing emphasis that there definitely was a powerful smell of gas, and that yes, I do know the difference between a slight smell and one which could result in explosive newspaper headlines and the loss of many local windows.
Then the emergency gas engineer arrives. His specialised instruments detect gas - in residual amounts by now - and he tells me, only slightly reassuringly, I must say, that this is his second such case this week. His explanation is that heavy and persistent rain, as we had yesterday, can flood old unused gas tanks and force any residual gas to seep out where it can. There must be a fume-filled tank somewhere beneath the utility room, seeping quietly out as the rain fills it up....
Nothing can be done. It may happen again, he says, until it exhausts itself. If there is another build up, I should take the same precautions, i.e. no naked lights, and open the windows. I add silently "And don't blame the dog and go back to bed."
The joiner is here by now, having sided with me from the start, and we spend the morning sniffing smugly and telling each other that, yes, definitely still a faint smell of gas. Yes, definitely. And the cupboard gets built, and primed. (Whoever installed that meter in the centre of a window should be slapped.)
While all this is going on, the cats are busy, competing for my attention. The Daily Frog - a black one today - and a sodden and very dead mouse.
After gift disposal, I google the effects of natural gas inhalation. There are marked differences of opinion: one school of thought considers the only risks to be ignition/explosion/loss of neighbours' windows/gruesome newspaper headlines, while others blame town gas for many of mankind's current health issues.
I have learned a lesson today. You don't know what you are living above.
I shall try to carry on as normal, but with more windows open than is usual on chilly autumn nights. There is a distinct smell of gas in the hall; I am uneasy.
But I have to say sorry. Sorry, Flossie.