Amateur repairs can create a death trap. Best call an expert – Susan Morrison

The Matriarch has been visiting far-flung members of the clan, and I returned her home to discover that the boiler was on the fritz.

Fixing complicated machinery is best left the experts (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Fixing complicated machinery is best left the experts (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

An error code was flashing up. No problem, thinks I. Get manual. Look up code. It’s probably just a ‘turn off and turn on’ job.

It wasn’t. The wording was pretty scary. Basically it said, do not mess with this.

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An engineer would have to be called. I turned around to see my aged mother advancing on the boiler, screwdriver in hand. “What are you doing?” I said, aghast.

“Ocht, I’ll just open this up and take a look.” she said. “Oh no, you won’t,” I said. “You could blow the whole street to kingdom come. The way the gas companies are charging they’d come after us for the units used. We need an engineer,” I said, gently but firmly, as I disarmed her.

We used to be able to fix things, she muttered behind me. Your dad fixed the toaster. Yes, he did. After a fashion. It was a pop-up toaster that stopped popping. He ‘took a look’.

After that, we had to be crouched and ready like baseball catchers to snatch the toast in mid-flight as it blasted past us at the sort of ferocity and trajectory that makes Nasa launch controllers high five each other. Failure to intercept meant lost toast. One slice stuck behind the fluorescent ceiling light for three weeks before it crash-landed onto the dinner table.

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There was the lamp Mum wanted moved to “improve the atmosphere”, to my father’s bafflement. He had not a clue about interior design, but he did know that the cable wasn’t long enough. No problem. He cut the plug off, spliced another length of wire on with duct tape, rewired the plug, then ran it under the living room carpet where it remained until an actual electrician found it. He told us all to get in the front garden. The house, essentially, was a death trap.

So, yes, we did once fix things, but some stuff you need a professional for. I called an engineer.