I slept OK for a man who thought he might not be waking up. But perhaps concerned about that possibility, I woke up a bit early and checked that my family was still alive. I had gambled on being correct about the fact that the Christmas tree had caused the problem and that the repeated alarms were down to residue from the original conflagration. And look, that gamble had paid off. Nobody had died. And the amazing prize (that I’d risked it all for) was being right…
I took Phoebe to her football class. But was a bit worried when my wife rang to say that the carbon monoxide alarm had gone off again. We’d put it upstairs on the landing when we woke up. I mean, it was possible the hot air was just reaching that part of the house… but I was now a bit worried. Were my son and wife about to succumb. I suggested that they turn off the heating (which I’d done as a precaution overnight too, because I am not a total idiot) and to the room above the garage which is detached from the house.
When I got home they were both still in the house. Everyone it seems is blasé about carbon monoxide. Is it its invisibility or its lack of smell that makes people not take it so seriously. I was concerned enough now to ring the emergency number I had found, if only to get some advice. They picked up immediately and even though I told them that this was all my stupid fault for burning a Christmas tree, they told me to open windows, turn off the gas at the external pipe and not turn on any electrical items. They were sending someone straight away.
It was great to see they took it this seriously and that there was someone ready to come out on a Sunday, Within an hour a laid back and friendly man called Dominic had shown up with a bit of Ghostbusters apparatus strapped to his back. It was good to see him multi-tasking. There was no carbon monoxide probably, but he might take a couple of ghosts.
I told him about the Christmas tree and we agreed that that was the probable cause of the alarm. “It’s worth being certain though, right?” I said, conscious that I had disturbed this man’s weekend due to my cavalier attitude to fuel. I did mention that the boiler had been recently looked at, but added that surely the professional who’d done that job would have ensured that all was tested.
And of course he was going to do all the necessary checks on the gas meter, the boiler and also to go round the house with his Ghostbuster pack (that thinking about it was probably some kind of carbon monoxide detector). The house was free of carbon monoxide it seemed as nothing was beeping and he advised me to get some more detectors and to have the flues checked. He went next door to check all was OK there too. I hope he didn’t tell them why they were having their Sunday disturbed or whose fault it was, It looked like he’d had a wasted journey, but he took it well.
He turned the gas back on and checked the meter and the flue coming out of the boiler and I heard some beeping. Calmly he told me that it turned out that there was a problem. The flue was not just serving as an exhaust for the boiler but was also leaking gas and carbon monoxide. He was going to have to shut down our central heating for the second time within the space of a month. Thank God I had put that Christmas tree in the fire. By creating a bit of carbon monoxide I had discovered a much bigger and potentially lethal problem. I was a hero.
But I was a bit concerned. The flue for the boiler is underneath our son’s room. Could carbon monoxide have been leaking in there for the last month (or if it was down to faulty installation - though we’d had a gas safe certificate- longer than that)? Dominic went back into the house to check the rooms and there was now carbon monoxide all over the fucking shop. I realised that it probably hadn’t been the Christmas tree setting off the alarm at all, but the boiler flue wafting through the house and reaching the living room on the other side. Perhaps having had people in the dining room next to the boiler had helped waft the deadly killer through. But worryingly the gas was in all the bedrooms and we had to once again air the house out to get rid of it.
But I was vindicated. Me burning pine needles wasn’t responsible for anything except a future chimney fire.
But also I was condemned. By ignoring repeated warnings I had let my family sleep in a house that was trying to kill them.
So, I’d come out evens over all.
I could tell from Dominic’s demeanour that there was no immediate danger, but what if this had been going on for weeks? I asked if we should all get checked up. None of us have had headaches, as far as I know, but Ernie can’t really tell us and was nearest and smallest. I think he is OK but we will all have a test this week as a precaution….
I felt so relieved that I hadn’t just left this and mildly foolish for having left it overnight. And also pissed off that our new boiler has let us down (and this time dangerously) in just four months. Of course no one was around to answer the phones today, so this meant at least one more cold night (though we do at least have practice at keeping it warmish) and then some possible argy bargy between the boiler manufacturer and the people who installed it as they both try to deflect blame. Either way I don’t think this saga is over yet. But hopefully my family are now safe from fumes and I’ve ordered more alarms.
And if your alarm goes off, even if you’re been burning stupid things in your house and are 99.9% certain that’s all it was, don’t wait around to see if you live or die. Call 0800 111 999.
I was grateful to Dominic and gave him a signed Emergency Questions book for his comedy fan son (and I promise to give a free book to anyone who saves the life of me and at least one family member).