Monday, April 28, 2008

Waiting for the Wardrobe

Part P of the Building Regulations code for England and Wales means that a person not certified as 'competent' cannot undertake work on most parts of a domestic electrical installation without having that work checked by an inspector from the local authority building control department. The rules keep changing as to what you are allowed to do without having to pay the cooncil to come and have a look - soon the nanny state won't even let us change a plug - but certainly a complete rewiring of a house falls under the remit of 'needing to be checked at first fix.'

I can see the point behind this. Electricity might just be a lot of magic pixies running down the wires, but they are capricious magic pixies and will bite you if you don't give them the respect they feel they are due. Since I am putting in a totally new wiring system alongside the existing one, the wires I'm playing with don't yet have any magic pixies in them, but still my efforts need to be checked. Once that has been done and found to be pixie-proof, I can move on to second fix, which is the wiring up of plugs, light switches and other strange paraphernalia. Then I have to get a professional pixie-wrangler, or 'electrician' as I believe some people call them, to test the system. Once that is done, and certificates of pixie-worthiness issued, I can then get the man from the electricity board in to come and fill the new system with pixies. Only then can I pull out all the old wires and put back the floorboards. Only then can I begin to think about decorating.

None of which is news to you, I suppose. I've moaned about the long list of things to do before, many times. But the difference is that I've finished first fix. Indeed, I finished first fix about ten days ago. I contacted the building control department as soon as I had finished, and was assured the electrician would come out to check the system as soon as possible.

I am still waiting for him to phone to arrange an appointment.

It would be bad enough if he had phoned and said it would be a fortnight before he could come out, what with his lumbago playing up and there being an r in the month. But no, he hasn't even phoned yet. I know this because my phone, clever little thing that it is, logs all incoming calls, whether they are answered or not. Even ones where the number is withheld, though obviously in those circumstances it is unable to tell me who has called. All of last week I waited, making the short journey from new house to old twice a day to stare at the blank screen on the handset and wonder what the hell was going on.

Last Friday it occurred to me that maybe I had given the building control department the wrong phone number. It took most of the morning to find the right person to speak to, but it appears I filled in the forms correctly. At no point in all my calling did anyone offer to give me the number of the electrician who is meant to come out and inspect - indeed when I suggested they might, they told me they couldn't possibly do that. They wouldn't even give me his name. The fact that the man who is normally responsible for these things has gone on holiday for a fortnight doesn't help either.

So I am left waiting, hostage to the whims of a sparky who probably can't be arsed making the trip so far out of town. It's been frustrating as hell getting the first fix done - nothing is ever as easy as you think it will be. But at least that was more or less in my control. I just had to figure out a solution to the problem, or go to town and buy more wire. This is a different kind of frustration altogether, as there's absolutely bugger all I can do about it. Complain too much and all that will happen is my case will slip down the waiting list even further. Don't make any noise and it could be Christmas before the magic pixies are allowed into their new home.

I thought BT had a monopoly on being utterly useless, but it seems that they are merely the foremost exponents of an art practised far and wide.

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