Brenda’s Unfortunate Record #30


Head’s well buried in the sand this week …

I can be a real dick & boy did I ever feel guilty on Sunday. Coming down after a weekend of fun, coming in to an empty home with one thought on my mind – dinner and more precisely the salmon burger I was gonna cook. I had all the components ready to go and my stomach was grumbling. This is one of the meals I’ve perfected over the years. I know exactly what to do, in what order, with what specific ingredients, timed to the millisecond. 

So I get my bun cut, stick it in the toaster ready to be grilled, splash just the right amount of olive oil in the pan, go to turn on the gas and ….. we’re out. This already happened on Thursday & is part of an ongoing problem with our utilities. If the meter gets down to zero, there’s no way to switch on emergency and instead you’re instructed to CALL HELP. I’ve been through the process 7+ times since last October and despite our requests for new equipment, every time an engineer turns up we’re told something different.

I pick up the phone somewhat irritated but still feeling relatively calm. I explain we’ve been through this many times before, that the last time was Thursday and that £30 was paid onto the card. Then we proceed to go through all the questions – is there anyone over the age of 60 in the property, anyone vulnerable – to which I respond no, fully expecting them to tell me someone will arrive within the next couple of hours (as they have every other time). But they don’t. Instead, the guy explains ‘as it is a bank holiday weekend and there is no one vulnerable in the house, I’m afraid the soonest we can get an engineer out is tomorrow afternoon’. As I protest, ‘but this keeps happening, we had someone here on Thursday & we put £30 on, we’ve tried getting a new meter’ etc etc I can feel the anger mounting. I’ve previously written about this temper of mine and before I know it, I’m shouting obscenities ‘What the fuck, this is fucking outrageous! Are you fucking kidding me?’ followed with, ‘I’m sorry i’m not cussing at you I am just unbelievably frustrated’ and then more swearing. Next thing I know I’ve hung up on him and am trying my best not to lob the phone across the room. Instead I go and kick the wall, leaving a big black mark which instantly reminds me what a tit i’m being. I go back over and start to dial.

The next woman I speak to hears how I hung up on her colleague, ‘I’m home alone, we’ve been through all this 7 times before, British Gas refuses to replace our kit’ etc etc and then we go through those SAME questions, only this time when she asks if there’s anyone vulnerable in the property I answer yes, at which point she pauses.

‘Yes? But you just said you were alone’
‘I know but my elderly mother is visiting’
‘Your elderly mother? How old is she?’
‘She’s 65 and she has rheumatoid arthritis’
‘You know the engineer is going to check to make sure?’ I stay silent, ‘I think this is kind of sad, you know. Kind of pathetic.’
‘Why are you judging me?’ I whimper.
‘Because you said you were alone and now you’re telling me your elderly mother is in the house. It is a very busy weekend and you could be depriving someone vulnerable of the help they need’
‘But my mother is here from Canada and she is vulnerable’
So she begrudgingly says she will pass the request onto the National Grid team who are supposedly handling the overflow, and that someone will call me back shortly to confirm. 

I hang up and go over to switch on the telly. As I’m sat on the settee the guilt starts setting in. I imagine the poor old ladies I’ve budged in front of. I think about how I’m home alone and can probably ration hot water til the morning, how I don’t really need the cooker – I’ve still got electricity (I also realised I can grill my fish, and in the interim have regulated the blood-sugar levels). And so I decide to pick up the phone for the third time, this time coming clean and saying I lied, only the voice on the other end tells me an engineer is already on their way. 

Accepting I’m in it now, I head upstairs to prep the spare room should indeed the engineer check up on my story. The truth is my mother is over 60. She does suffer Rheumatoid arthritis and in that sense, would qualify as ‘vulnerable’. Only she’s not here. She’s at home in Canada. But the last time she was in town she left a cane. As the bed’s already made up I bring down an empty suitcase and carefully set the scene. I wonder how thorough the check could be. Should I fill the case? What mumsy-type belongings do I have? 

About an hour later there’s a knock on the door. Everything’s fixed in a matter of minutes (apparently this time it’s the card that’s faulty, not the metre?) and there’s no check of the room, which just goes to show. But I do still feel a bit bad, lying and all, throwing a tantrum over something as frivolous as a fish burger. Night strike, indeed, island indeed. It’s all there in the title.  


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