How to light a boiler

I have an irrational rational fear of thinks that go bang or could potentially explode. This fear is not limited to Mrs Sensible exploding when she realises I have failed to pay the electric bill on time and ENEL have automatically reduced our available power down to zip, or maybe just enough electricity to power two 60 watt light bulbs. By the way how can they do that? This is Italy it is way too technical for ENEL and besides nothing functions that fast.

oops!

Occasionally I forget to pay the bill before they reduce our power, fortunately Mrs Sensible is only aware of one of these mistakes. 

 

This rational fear of things that may spontaneously explode, dates back to a very traumatic life event during my young formative years. My mother had one of those long tube vacuum cleaners, the ones that mothers drag around behind them. From what I have been told, I decided to sit astride the hoover and pretend I was riding a horse. Everything was fun, until somebody who had a really strange sense of humour decided to find out what would happen if they pressed the big red button and switched it on whilst I was playing my little game.

 

Taught a lesson

A typical Sunday afternoon when I was a child.

From an early age it would appear that I had learnt how to multi-task, I managed to fill a clean nappy, get off the hoover and run screaming from the room quicker that you can shout BOO! I don’t want to thank the person who pressed the red button, but the traumatic experience has in the past, saved me from many injuries. To explain how quickly I can move when startled, let me give you this example: A lunatic of a neighbor who disliked my elder brother, once decided to bang on the roof of my brothers van with a rather large stick. Before my brother had got out of the van to hit him, I had already left the van and sprinted 40 metres up the road and was in a defensive crouch waiting for the (what I thought was exploding van) bits of van to fly overhead. I was 15 at the time.

Back to this morning, Mrs Sensible suggested that we start using the central heating for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. Using the heating for only 4 hours a day might seem frugal or penny-pinching to you, but in reality  it will save us hundreds of Euros. The first winter we lived in Italy we heated the house the same way we did in the UK and our ENEL  November / December gas bill was for over nine hundred euros! and that was a little efficient combi-boiler not the monstrous beast we have in this house.

Look at the size of it

To give you an idea of its size, look at the stack of garden chairs next to it.

We think this boiler was either army surplus of was previously used to heat the Casale Monferrato hospital and the ambulance station next door to it. When the boiler starts, it sounds like a jet engine ready for take off, I cry as I can hear hundreds of euros of gas being sucked into it. Now this boiler has sat dormant for the past eight months and this morning I attempted to light it.

The new and improved system

The new and improved system

Last year the electrical control panel for the boiler was upgraded, previously it had lots of bakelite switches and levers that looked like Frankenstein’s life support system. This morning I flipped the main electrical switch and turned on the pump controls, set the clock to on and waited. It normally takes 15 seconds to ignite and start burning my Euros; nothing it didn’t even fart. I then remembered I needed to go outside and turn on the big gas valve.

I repeated the process and after 15 seconds it hummed, whooshed and burst into action, Whoo hoo! I was just sending Mrs S a whatsapp message when it shut down. So I rang Francois our boiler expert and left him a garbled message. Something like “I Englishman, please boiler kaput fix today?” As I hung up and wondered if I could have phrased my request any better, I decided to try a little DIY.

Modern radiator in my bathroom

Modern radiator in my bathroom, notice the condensation on the OUTSIDE of the window…. So cold

I swiveled the weird divertor valve, unscrewed pumps 2 & 3 then remembered to turn off the gas and electric. Both pumps had seized, so I gave them a technical tap with my hammer, swore at them, reassembled and turned on the gas and electric. The pumps started turning, so I lite the boiler and retreated to a safe place. It whooshed farted and stopped.

So I phoned François again and left him another totally bizarre message. He probably plays my messages to his friends while they are getting drunk on grappa.

Press here if you dare

Press here if you dare

I then remembered the special reset button at the front of the boiler, so I pressed it for 10 seconds and quickly retreated outside my persevered blast radius. It hummed, farted once again and burst into life. I carefully replaced the cover, I have to be honest I don’t like or trust this ancient machine and my natural flight response was screaming in my head. RUN! It still might go BANG.

 

bubbled

 

Happy December to you all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter is nearly here!

Wood situation

The wood situation is critical

This morning on Facebook I noticed that MM from Multifarious Meanderings has just had her winter wood supply delivered. We on the other hand have been burning the wood that Mario the woodman delivered since the beginning of October. This is a little worrying as winter doesn’t officially start in Italy until the 21st of December and it is doubtful that our current stock of wood will last us through the winter. After all we only bought 26 quintali (just over two and a half tons of wood!!)

The red arrow will become clear later.

The reason for the red arrow will become apparent later.

When the wood arrives you need to stack it somewhere dry and in such a way that it won’t fall over. When I ordered our wood I gave Mario clear and simple instructions, I asked for dry wood that would fit my little wood burning heater. I also asked him to cut the logs the same size so that a girl in a frock or even an Englishman could stack it.

The fun way to stack wood

A girl in a frock stacking wood.

Either Mario didn’t understand my version of Italian or he has a great sense of humour, because amongst the pile of wood he dumped on my lawn were twigs, sticks and several bits of wood that looked like the hind leg of a donkey.

Thanks Mario

Thanks Mario

Mario realised that I was English and had probably never before attempted to stack two and a half tons of wood. To be honest he was almost correct, last year when we needed wood I simply wandered down the garden with my chainsaw and cut a tree down.

The previous two year, I had the wood dropped into the garage and just left it in a big pile. When we lived in Borgo San Martino, we only had a little courtyard and I (with the help of Mrs Sensible) stacked 10 quintale (one ton). I know a wife shouldn’t really help with the stacking of wood, but the delivery man had dropped the wood in the middle of the road completely blocking it to traffic.

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Mario showed me how to stack the wood

Good old Mario showed me how to stack the wood by laying the first four pieces. As he drove away in his tractor I went off in search of a glass of wine.

It took me two exhausting and pain filled days to stack the wood thankfully it didn’t rain on me. I would like at this stage to show you a picture of my wood stacking. This will be valuable information for MM, unless of course she is just going to leave the wood in a heap or dump it in her garage.

Interlocked

Interlocked to perfection

 

MM, look how the wood is all interlocked. It is absolutely amazing!! You will notice that I chose a very small area of my wood pile as an example of my fine Italian wood stacking. This is because the rest of the wood pile is a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And please notice how I managed to incorporate an object d art.

A very important box

A very important box

I know all of you think I am just a little eccentric as every Englishman should be, or maybe bordering on madness.  But may I remind you about the red arrow in the second photograph? It points to a hole in the wall where the scabby cats enter their little house. Yes our cats live outside in a little three by three apartment.

My wonderful wood pile was going to close off their doorway so I inserted a wooden box and a secret tunnel for the cats.

Here is one of our cats, the terrible Headache.

Headache a beautiful looking cat, superb mouser but has a couple of strange idiosyncrasies….

As you can see, it didn’t take long for Headache to find the new entrance to his house. If anyone want’s to adopt Headache please leave me a message below and we will send him via Fedex anywhere in the world.

The mysterious case of the stolen packet of biscuits…

Last weekend Mrs Sensible dragged me kicking and screaming to the local supermarket. I hate shopping and pushing a trolley around the aisles saying useful things like, uh huh and not sure and even, wow look two toilet rolls  for the price of one! A couple of months ago I used to be able to have a bit of fun hiding a bottle of limoncello or a bar of chocolate under the shopping for it to appear when Mrs S loaded our shopping onto the check out conveyor. Mrs Sensible doesn’t normally like making a fuss in front of people, occasionally she would give me her teacher stare but normally my acquisitions are, blipped, paid for and put in the plastic bags.

Englishmaninitaly.org

Even Batman goes shopping

To make my visits to the supermarket even more unbearable, Ipercoop have introduced a new system, probably marketed as Blip as you go. Special people (like Mrs Sensible) are allowed to go around the store and blip their purchases as they shop, they are even allowed to put them into shopping bags and when they are ready to leave the store, they put the blipper in a special machine and finally pay for their purchases.

Mrs Sensible's new toy

The Blipper, Mrs Sensible’s new toy

For many reasons I do not like this system. First I can no longer hide bottles of limoncello as they need to be blipped by Mrs S before they enter the trolley that I am responsible for pushing. Second I am not happy with depriving a check out girl from her job and finally Ipercoop and Mrs Sensible wont let me play with one of the blippers.

Back to last week, Mrs S dragged me off to Ipercoop and we filled the trolley with useless things like bleach, pasta and bicarbonate of soda (We seem to use a lot of this stuff) . Mrs S was of course in charge of the blipper and my sole responsibility was to push the trolley and mutter, uh huh and are we nearly done now? But to my surprise we turned up the biscuit aisle. I say to my surprise because Mrs S and I seem to be on a 24/7, 346 days a year diet (excluding wine and grappa). I held my breath as Mrs S blipped two packets of biscuits and handed them to me, as I dropped them in the trolley; she then handed me a third packet and I duly dropped it in the trolley.

For at least one nanosecond I did wonder if Mrs S had remembered to blip the 3rd packet of biscuits, but as William K Shakespeare famously said “Theirs is not to reason why” and so I put the third packet in the trolley and didn’t mention Mrs Sensible’s possible oversight. When we returned home and staggered into the house with umpteen plastic bags of shopping, Mrs S picked up the till receipt and checked her purchases. Checking till receipts when you return home is a hereditary disorder, I have watched her father do the same receipt checking thing. I normally screw receipts up and stuff them in my back pocket.

Mrs Sensible, realised that we had three packets of biscuits……… but SHE had only blipped and paid for two. We then had the following conversation, you can work out for yourselves who said what.

Did you put another packet of biscuits in the trolley?

Nope!

Are you sure?

Positive, I am only in charge of the trolley.

But we only paid for two packets!

Oops,

Mrs S re-checked her till receipt to see if a third packet was itemised in between the bleach and the bicarbonate of soda, it wasn’t. Obviously I thought this was funny and Mrs S didn’t.

Ok so you have STOLEN A PACKET OF BISCUITS, what are you going to do about it?

I could go  back and tell them.

Uh huh you could, or next time you go shopping you could take them back and put them back on the shelf.

I think they have security cameras.

Tricky… How about we just eat them?

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

The biscuits that Mrs S stole (Ok she only shop lifted one packet)

Over the past week the problem of the STOLEN PACKET OF BISCUITS has weighed heavily on the conscience of Mrs Sensible, I have done my best not to reminder Mrs S too much that she is now not only a sensible school teacher, but she is also a sensible shoplifter. On Friday I crunched my way through a packet of biscuits and casually remarked at how nice, tasty and crunchy they were. So far Mrs S has refused to join me in eating the evidence of her ill gotten gains.

Last night, out of the blue Mrs Sensible said

I know how to solve it.

Solve what?

The biscuits.

Uh Huh.

When we next go shopping I will blip two packets and only buy one packet.

Which gives me at least three days to find a way of foiling her scheme.

This isn’t the first time I have been caught up in illegal activity with Mrs Sensible’s sensible family. I do remember almost getting arrested at Gatwick Airport with Mrs Sensible’s mum and a rather large pen knife. LINK 

As you can see I have eaten the evidence

As you can see I have eaten the evidence