Towards the end of 2005 the builder had finished, at last. We had a short break in Rome and then started to get on with decorating the cottage, from top to bottom. Now that we had the cottage laid out as we wanted, it was time to think about updating the burglar alarm. The concrete and asbestos garage had been replaced by a brick built garage with a slate roof, the outbuilding which had holes in the roof had been replaced with a much smaller double glazed conservatory and the large bathroom had been converted into a smaller bathroom and an en suite shower room. The old burglar alarm consisted of a large control panel in the hall containing an elastic band and a piece of string plus three sensors. Discretion did not come into it. The control panel was obvious the minute you were through the front door. So we got an estimate the for job and thought about it and in late January 2006 I went ahead and booked the installation. The company suggested Tuesday February 14. It was a convenient day for me, but I had a few reservations about it. I had my evening class that night and it was St Valentine's Day but really it is just another day and my husband was going to be away anyway.
When the engineers had not arrived by 9.15 am I phoned up to ask where they were. One of the two, assigned to our job, had had to go to the dentist. They would be along shortly. After another hour's await and another phone call his mate arrived to make a start. About 12 noon I had the full compliment of two engineers. This job was supposed to take a day and a half. How were they going to achieve that when they had already lost half a day? Important things first, they had lunch then had a walk around the cottage with specification for the job. By now it was time for me to have my lunch. As I sat at the kitchen table with my sandwich I wondered why I could hear knocking coming from the water pipes. I went to see how they were getting on and found the mate with his finger stuck in the living room wall trying to stop the flow of water from the pipe that his partner in crime had drilled. In the ensuing panic they switched off everything that they could in the air ring cupboard and anything water related. They also attempted to drain every drop of water from our water works and all of the water out of our oil fired boiler, thinking that it was a gas boiler. Eventually they realised that they were out of their depth and phoned for a plumber who had time to fix the leak but nothing else. In the short time that the plumber was in the cottage the mate managed to drill into another water pipe in the cupboard under the stairs. The plumber had obviously only been asked to repair one leak and left pronto. By now panic had set in and the engineers were phoning their colleagues for re-enforcement. Eventually they found an engineer colleague who had done a bit of plumbing and was able to come to their assistance. He managed to fix the second leak then set about getting the central heating boiler started unaware that the whole system had been drained of water. So his initial attempts to get the boiler going just filled our central heating system with air. After switching back on what they thought was everything that they had switched off, they managed to get the central heating boiler going. But the system was full of air and every radiator needed bleeding. By the time that they left it was too late to think about going to my evening class. One day's work and what had they done? Drilled into two water pipes and laid a few cables.
Two days later when my husband got home at about 6 pm they were still crawling around the house trying to finish the job. One and a half days work had taken three days! As a result of the Valentine's Day fiasco we were draining air from our radiators for weeks before we managed to get the system clear of air, the central heating boiler kept switching itself off and the first time that I tried to have a shower I found that the water supply to it was still turned off. Luckily I had chosen to use the shower over the bath so was able to use water from the bath taps to wash the shower gel off me.
The next day was Friday and we were due to go away for the weekend, but before we did my husband phoned the burglar alarm company with the intention of speaking to the Managing Director only to be informed that he was currently on a cruise down the Nile.