Monday 31 October 2011


This is my favourite time of year. So many colours, and not just the autumn leaves.


Flossie chose a ball to co-ordinate with her tongue.

When it gets too muddy she rinses it in the brook.

There were vibrant yellows.

And zingy reds.

Creamy white.

Different blues, bluey-pinks, and bluey-pinky-lilacs.

And lovely, lively orange. Such a tonic as the days shorten.

High-viz orange too. This rider asked her horse to smile for the camera.

There was colour even when darkness fell.....

And all within 500 yards of my house.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Stand down, everyone

No gas smell this morning, just cool autumn air. Seems that the smug and patronising emergency gas man was right. What a relief.

Two fellow dog walkers told me yesterday of their similar experiences.

Mr Frayed at the edge, with a career in the petro-chemical industry behind him, suggested that it was the "stenching agent" that we could detect, and that an explosimeter could be used to let me know if I was about to be blown up. I accused him of making that last word up, but no, it appears to be a real and no doubt awfully useful gadget.

Flossie's new job description will include responsibility for becoming the household's own private stenching agent.

I may treat myself to a nice modern explosimeter to ensure that the household remains safe.

We know that Flossie takes her duties very seriously.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Alive, at any rate

9 pm Friday and the house is cold, with open doors and windows overcoming the central heating effortlessly.

I find it hard to believe that 'nothing can be done' about this residual gas problem. I worry about becoming the shock-horror story of how 'something should have been done' (but wasn't, and now look at what happened!)

I reach a stage where, close to a self-pitying sob (no bathroom! building supplies everywhere! gas seeping uncontrollably into my cold, dusty, comfortless, draughty home!), I contemplate booking myself into a B&B for the night, but stiffen the upper lip and go to bed with an electric blanket on, set to All Night. And oddly, sleep soundly. Lottie and Millie glue themselves to the warm bed and don't move till morning. Tosca coughs a little in the corner, but she is better now, and quickly settles down for the night.

(Note: wrong seat on toilet; replacement awaited. Well-known builders merchants gets it wrong again.)

(Note: wrong size of basin; replacement awaited. Well-known builders merchant etc...)

This morning, the gassy smell is still there, but the judicious closing of doors in the the rabbit warren that is the downstairs of my house has kept Flossie, Scooter and Hamish cosy and ungassed in the dining room while the hall feels the full force of the wind through the propped-open back door.

This afternoon, the smell has lessened. I clean the sitting room within an inch of its life, so that there is one room at least where we can be comfortable and dust-free this weekend, and I feel a bit more hopeful.

The building supplies will dwindle next week and metamorphose into a glossy tiled bathroom, with gleaming taps and shower panels; the smell of wet plaster will change to that of beautiful scented soaps, and all will be clean. Including me.

And then the work on the utility-to-be will start up again....

Friday 28 October 2011

Sorry, dog

4 a.m. and there's an odd smell in the house, discernible upstairs as I sleep.

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 anything gas (well no, the house is now a chilly wind tunnel standing wide to the world; all I can smell now is very fresh air) and they check the meter, which proves to be fault-free. They look at me disbelievingly; the surveyor has gone by this time, so it's only my word against their inefficient noses.

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.

Wednesday 26 October 2011


Fleeing from this:

We did this:

The weather was warm.

But changeable.

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