I have been flying under the radar since I last posted (before Christmas). If that seems a long time ago, it’s probably because it is. And starting a new year turns the previous year into ancient history. You buy a new calendar and throw the old one away. On the whole I was glad to get 2019 – certainly the last quarter of it – out of the way.

As they say, it has been just one thing after another

First the fridge, which had been giving us grief for months (the door wouldn’t close properly, which is not a good thing in a fridge), gave up the ghost. Being an integrated freeze-freezer, it is no small matter to identify a suitable replacement and get it fitted. (If you don’t have to have an integrated fridge, my advice is don’t get one.) Good old John Lewis! We ordered it, and (in good time for Christmas), two blokes duly arrived to install it.

I had to wait in the front room for a knock on the door (they were late, surprise, surprise) because the wireless doorbell had stopped working. Obviously I had tried changing the batteries in the ringer. Nothing. Must be the bell. I prised the bell off, took it inside, changed the battery to be on the safe side, and tested it. It worked fine, so I put it back on the door frame. It didn’t work, so I took it off and tested it again. It worked fine. It put it back on the door frame. Nothing. I moved the ringer thingy around the house but no avail. But I digress. The two blokes couldn’t fit the fridge after all, because our doors “hang on” rather than “slide on”, or something like that. We had to phone JL to explain the situation to someone in Motherwell, after being held in a very long queue, then purchase a different model – which was, of course, quite a lot more expensive.

What with it being the festive season, one does rather need a fridge so I bought a smallish, cheap one on Amazon and it came the next day. Impressive, except that it was damaged, and not in a small way. There was a bloody great diagonal dent right across it. But we did need a fridge there and then so I negotiated a hefty discount and we kept it, gritting our teeth.

***

I crawled out of bed one fine December morning and thought “the house feels a bit chilly”. The central heating had stopped working. There was nothing wrong with the two-year-old combi boiler; but it was the very 21st-century, wireless-enabled thermostat that wasn’t working. No display at all. OK, so we need to change the batteries. Nothing. I eventually got through to the man who had fitted the boiler two years earlier. “Ah yes, those things tend to go wrong after two years.” That would be because they come with a two years’ guarantee, I suppose. Unfortunately he couldn’t help as he longer dealt with domestic heating. He kindly recommended someone else: “he’s good if a bit vague”.

The vague if good plumber and I had a brief conversation. He was terribly busy but he would come round and install a new thermostat. But he never did. After a week or so of turning the heating on and off manually, and waking up in a freezing (loft-extension) bedroom, we started using a fan heater… until it blew up. That was the day before the ceiling lamp blew.

Then you start to notice the little things: e.g. the shower plughole is blocked. Easily fixed, unlike the CD player whose drawer would no longer stay closed. Even if you thump it, it will just keep sliding open and won’t play a disc. So that’s something else for the recycling centre (three miles away on the Old Kent Road.) But luckily I’d digitised many of my CDs. Two days later the Brennan JB7 failed catastrophically, retaining a treasured CD in the process. Merry Christmas.

***

From mid-October I have had three bouts of cold/flu, with just the odd week’s respite in between. So we decided to go to France over the new year. I was still feeling lousy but the fresh air would surely help. The house in La Bréchoire was freezing when we got there, but that was to be expected and I’m not complaining. It was an enjoyable week, apart from the coughing and the toothache. We met old friends and had some decent walks around the woods in the sunshine.

When the time came to leave I found I could not close the shutters. With all that rain and autumnal humidity the wood had swelled up and you would have had to have taken a centimetre off to get them to close. So we had to leave them open. Cut (or rather not cut) and run.

***

Since then things have been looking up

We made it back to France without the car breaking down. The two John Lewis blokes came, again, only an hour late, and they were kind enough keep me informed. They finally fitted the new fridge. We bought a fan heater, which still works. I found another plumber who arrived only six hours late and fitted a new thermostat. The toothache has abated, though I am still off to the dentist this afternoon, and I seem to have stopped coughing at last.

***

Do troubles really come in threes? A Portuguese hotelier once told me : “When the sun isn’t shining my guests complain that the lift isn’t working, but when the weather is good they don’t seem to notice”. There is something in that. Once you start looking for problems, you will find plenty, and soon you begin to take it personally. Why does everything happen to me?

Conversely, once you fix something you gain enough energy to sort out the next little problem and feel a lot better. I am, as usual, talking about myself. I am in a never-ending battle, not so much against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but with my own tendency to embrace defeatism.

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