Yesterday was simple in prospect. My car had developed an engine fault – at least that’s what my dashboard screen was telling me – so I had booked it into a dealer garage on the south coast at 8.00am to have the matter attended to and, whilst they were at it, give the old bus its 70,000 miles [minor, change the oil type of thing] service at the same time.
Mindful of the possibility that the repair might take some time, or require the ordering of parts, I popped over to see an elderly relative taking an overnight bag with me ‘just in case’. The important thing was to have the engine fault rectified before the weekend if possible.
What did Robert (‘Rabbie’) Burns say in his ode To A Mouse … ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley …’ [often go awry]?
Things began to go ‘a-gely’ with bells on – literally – for your correspondent at about 11.00am, when I received a call from my next-door neighbour in my block of flats in town. She said that she didn’t want to bother me but, as she was speaking, the burglar alarm had been ringing inside my flat for more than an hour.
From where I was then sitting, two hours away by Britain’s roads, there seemed to be bugger-all I could do about it. Not least because my own vehicle was presumably by then high on a hoist having its innards pulled apart.
My relative and I went for an early pub lunch, during which I rang the mansion block director and brought him up to speed on the subject of my burglar alarm. After going downstairs to investigate he reported that my next-door neighbour wasn’t bonkers – my burglar alarm was indeed deafening the building.
I mentioned that I found this odd because, before leaving that morning, I hadn’t set the alarm.
The thing is, I never do. I only had my burglar alarm installed because twenty years ago – when an opportunist kid in the block stole my laptop – my insurers had implied that my premiums might rise if I didn’t. I don’t set it for three reasons; (1) I cannot be bothered; (2) I have forgotten my secret keypad number; and (3) the weekend after I had the rather expensive system installed, the Metropolitan Police announced that, as a matter of policy, they were no longer going to respond to burglar alarms going off anyway because doing so was a waste of manpower resources.
My only, half-facetious, thought (aired aloud to my block director) was that perhaps I’d left something on the stove. He assured me this was unlikely. He’d been round to look in through my flat window and had seen neither flames nor billowing clouds of smoke threatening the sanctity of the building. He felt the more likely explanation was that perhaps vibrations from the extensive building work now being done in the flat above has caused the alarm to ‘trigger’.
I outlined my plan of action. I would call the garage and ask of the progress on my car. If it was ready, or nearly so, I would drive back to London in haste and deal with alarm which was still shrilly affecting the quiet enjoyment of my neighbours’ flats. Failing that, I would borrow or hire a car and do similar.
This was the point at which the ‘a-gley ..’ factor began to get complicated.
The service was done [cost £184]. However, upon investigation the engine fault my car had identified had proved to be a turbo problem. To wit, it was kaput. Even if I agreed immediately to a replacement, costing an estimated £2,300 plus labour, the work required meant that my car would not be ready until next Tuesday.
An hour later, I was on my way to town in one of the garage’s courtesy cars, having signed up to have a new turbo fitted.
On the drive back I had plenty of time to contemplate the fact that, once repaired, my beloved 4 x 4 (recommended to me by my son as, it proved, a successful solution to my back problems, caused by sitting too long at my computer desk and climbing in and out of tarmac-level driving seats) will have cost me the best part of £4,400 in the past month.
That’s for the current repair, plus renewing its insurance [£1500 thanks to a 6 months ‘totting-up’ ban after a run-in with the speeding Gestapo two years ago], plus £490 for its annual licence, plus £260 for a renewal of my residential parking permit.
Finally, back inside my flat with the burglar alarm deafening me, I called the burglar alarm company. They guided me in how to ‘switch it off’ as far as tapping in my secret keypad number – at which point, of course, I had to admit I didn’t know it. For security reasons, they were prevented from telling me what it was. It would require a call-out for an engineer to attend and do the necessary. They helpfully told me that they’d make this a priority job.
The fellow duly arrived nearly two hours later, by which time the alarm had been ‘singing’ in total for almost ten hours without a break.
The call-out charge? An eye-watering £110.
By choice, I’m having a slow start this morning …