This has been a reading week. I have managed French and German philosophy, and an English historical novel. But when it came to the electricity meter my performance was subject to certain shocks.
In my experience, Southern Electric are the most reliable and understandable of the UK’s multiplicity of utility companies. They give you a discount for paying promptly and have a fairly smooth system. They do actually read the meters every six months. Our current bill is estimated. That document is easy enough to read, but I do like to pay for what we have actually used. So I had to read the meter.
First of all, I had to find it. There isn’t one in our flat, although there is a cobweb-filled fuse box, that on the estate agents inventory was marked as not inspected because it was too high up on the wall. About ten feet in fact.
There are two entrance halls in our huge building. No meters were to be found in ours. Using the trades entrance to the other side of Castle Malwood Lodge, Jackie found a vast cupboard over there full of meters, none of which was ours. The ceilings are about 11 feet high. Above the cupboards Jackie searched are two smaller, locked, ones. Access to these required a perch on a long stepladder.
There are seventeen flats in our building (no number 13, so 1-18). Each has its own meter. Some of these are indicated by pencil or pen marks on the walls; some by ancient curled-up Dymo marker strips. Ours is number 4. It was therefore somewhat surprising to find that our meter was the only one in the top left cupboard. Up I had climbed to the cupboard; unlocked it; climbed down and moved the ladder so I could open the door; climbed back up, opened the said door, and identified the number embossed on the curly Dymo strip as ours.
It should have been straightforward from then on. However, the device contained a window displaying three sets of numbers in rapidy changing turns. Being on Economy 7 tariff our bill showed one total for Day use and another for Night use. Two of the numbers with which I was confronted bore some resemblance to those on the bill. The other didn’t.
It was time to telephone the supplier. Going through the usual machine-led hoops, I eventually spoke to a very helpful woman who lives in a laird’s cottage in Scotland. From this information you will know that we got on quite well. Having kept me on hold while she sought advice, she abandoned trying to talk me through pressing buttons on the meter once I had managed to convey the logistics of making my way back to it with a phone in my hand. I paid the estimated bill and the meter will be read next time.
But we may not be here then, for this afternoon we visited the bank in Ringwood where we gained a positive response to the possibility of a loan should we have a shortfall on the stamp duty on The Old Post House. We forgot about this exorbitant tax on buying somewhere to live. After this we drove to Spencer’s in Lymington to offer proof that we are who we said we were and that we live at the address we gave the agent. Passports proved our identity, and it seemed appropriate to use the above-mentioned utility bill as evidence of residence. I did apologise for having scribbled all over it.
Have I mentioned that one of the radiators for which we are paying rent doesn’t work? I thought not. Purely by coincidence, the manager of the electrical firm engaged to fix this, telephoned me when I was grappling with the meter problem. He wanted to send someone this afternoon. I said we were going out. He suggested making another appointment. Without actually quoting Oscar Wilde, I pointed out that the two previous appointments had been cancelled on the relevant days through someone calling in sick. I didn’t mention that the great Irish epigrammatist may have thought this careless, but I did suggest we may not be able to rely on a third one. He was somewhat chastened by this and undertook to send someone to be here when we returned home. Two men did come, only ten minutes late, and having rung us to let us know. They confirmed that the radiator doesn’t work, and, as for every other task needed in the flat, they have to go back to Penyards, the agent, for permission to do further work. I tried not to get too wired up about it.
The beautifully presented smoked haddock meal we enjoyed, and I photographed, on 2nd May, was repeated this evening. The wine was the same except that it was Roc Saint Vincent 2011.