Just when you don’t expect it, the central heating boiler breaks down. Or in my case it caught fire. There was a certain amount of excitement late at night in Burbage Road when two fire appliances arrived with blue-lights flashing and sirens howling, despite my assurances that these were really not necessary. Forty-five minutes and half a dozen burly firemen later the smoke had cleared, the boiler declared safe and we awaited the arrival, in the now small hours, of the emergency gas fitter to shut off the gas.
So far, as it was high summer, so good.
When such a major item of household comfort is rendered useless it is necessary to look for a replacement. As it was summer there was not the extreme urgency there might have been if the problem had occurred in the depths of winter. Inconvenient, yes. Impossible to live with? No. After all, as a member of the Youth Hostel Association in the 1950’s, I grew used to shaving in cold water.
With the media taking great delight in telling the public of the anticipated large increases to come in the costs of gas and electricity, it seemed logical to consider greener, safer and hopefully cheaper sources of energy. I thought, what about solar heating?
My architect friends in the Dulwich Society sagely shook their heads. “You’ll never get your money back” was the general response. Undaunted, I looked at Yellow Pages for someone in South London who might be prepared to quote for installing solar heating – there was not one advertisement in my 2008/0 edition offering solar heating services.
Now this is very odd. What is even odder is that neither local nor national government seems to be advocating or even seriously considering solar power. Not even a squeak out of the ‘Dulwich Going Greener Campaign’. No helpful leaflet from such sources, trumpeting solar power’s beneficial and economic qualities had accompanied the pizza and Indian takeaway menus pushed through my letter box. Plenty of airtime and newspaper columns describing alternative energy sources were evident – ghastly wind farms impairing the view of sea or mountain, risky harnessing of the Severn Bore, emulating Canute by attempting to use wave power; certainly all of those. But I am not proposing some new and untried invention, solar heating has been around for years. So where is the political will and the accompanying business plan to put solar panels on 20 million homes? Surely it does not require a Maynard Keynes to calculate the reduction in unit costs mass manufacture and marketing would create.
Of course in the end my patience ran out. British Gas was called and three weeks later a new gas boiler installed. We are awaiting the first, (hugely increased) bill.