It’s 11am on a freezing morning in early March 2018. I am undercover for The Bluelands Gazette, posing as a trainee heating engineer and accompanying a professional on his callouts. The weather app on my phone tells me it’s minus 3 degrees outside. Right now we are attending the home of an elderly lady whose boiler packed up last night.
“Where the fuck have you two layabouts been? I’m freezing my tits off”, exclaims the feisty OAP. My companion mutters something about the weather being really bad in case she hasn’t noticed, which is why we’re an hour late. We are led to the bathroom where a combi-boiler sits in the corner, lights flashing and mocking us with its guttural gurgle.
“So what’s happened, exactly?” asks the heating pro. Our customer looks mightily cheesed off. “It’s knackered, that’s what’s happened, and it was only put in 5 years ago. By you.”
Later, back in the van, my companion confides in me. “Boilers are are all well and good, but they aren’t designed to work when it’s really cold.” I express naive surprise. Surely the whole point of a boiler is to provide mankind with a way of not dying of hyperthermia in our own homes?
“No, no, no. Boilers have the built-in design feature of breaking down when it’s cold. It’s the same reason ice-making machines stop working in hot weather. Now get yourself back up there and chuck a cup of hot water over the condenser pipe. We can charge her a hundred quid for that.”
The beautiful snowy scenery of the past few days are now making way for an altogether different kind of wintry sight. The pretty glitter of snowflakes has turned into a thick brown muddy gunk that gets absolutely bloody everywhere.
Experts at the Met Office are predicting record levels of slush to hit parts of the UK throughout the weekend. “Our advice is to not travel unless absolutely necessary”, said a spokesman. “If you must go out, wear dark brown boots and dark jeans. Invest in an absorbent doormat, preferably dark brown in colour. If you have pale carpets they’ll probably be ruined despite your best efforts. You should have bought dark brown ones.”
Carpet retailers are anticipating a bumper March. Carpet salesman Tony, from Wilmslow, is looking forward to a month spent comforting annoyed homeowners needing to replace mud-caked Axminsters. “That stuff will turn up in places you least expect it to”, explains Tony. “You’ll think you’ve stamped all the slush off your boots, and they’re all nice and clean, then when you look back you’ll see a trail of icy blobs melting rapidly into your gorgeous wool twist. It’ll even turn up in the bedroom. Bizarre.”
Extended January sales finished at the end of February so if you want new carpet now, advise retailers, you’ll have to pay full price.
A short flurry of snow has swept across Southern and Eastern England as predicted, bringing with it light breezes and chilly air.
The ‘beast from the east’, as it was dubbed by the Met Office when it was still over a week away, has so far failed to live up to it’s terrifying name. The cataclysmic Siberian blizzards and death-inducing temperatures have so far failed to appear, and predictions of polar bears roaming the Norfolk Broads are looking improbable.
Despite the promised killing fields of East Anglia being something of a no-show, all transport systems are utterly screwed. A spokesman for Southern Rail, whose slapstick incompetence at being a rail network last year ruined thousands of livelihoods, warned that the inclement weather was the excuse they’ve been hoping for to cancel loads of services and knock off early. “We’ve been anxiously watching the weather reports hoping for the drop in temperatures that will justify our crapness. It’s not our fault that it’s snowing, surely no one can blame us for that.”
Road gritters have already run out of grit despite there being a 90 million ton mountain of it somewhere off the M62, and although airports have managed to stay open so far, holidaymakers are being advised to bring a tent and divert their post to whichever airport they’re supposed to be flying from.