Why Writers Hate Boilers (and other distractions)

There’s a problem with our boiler. It keeps cutting out surreptitiously, leaving a cold house and a disturbing smell of gas that can’t be traced. As a stay-at-home, full-time, writer, I’m the recipient or the endurer of this process and it is simply, honestly, categorically, driving me insane. The engineer has just been, and told me that next time it happens I must not restart the system, but sit in the cold until an engineer can turn up to work out why it’s happening.

The thing is, I can’t work without having the boiler in the back of my mind, and quite often, in the front of my mind. I’m on Chapter Nine of a sort of a murder-mystery that is also a love story and also an exploration of attitudes to mental illness and colour in the 1970s. 1976 in fact.

Remember 1976, the hottest summer ever? Well, not the hottest summer ever, but the hottest in living memory in the UK– the one where the tarmac melted on the roads and we ate ice-cream for breakfast. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to write about the glories of that year when one ear is listening for the sound of the heating ceasing. In other words, trying to hear silence occurring. Both an aural and mental strain, neither of which conduces to good prose.

And the worst thing of all is, as soon as I get into my stride, and am actually producing a few words of value, the bloody heating does switch off, without my noticing, and ten minutes later I’m bloody freezing and can’t type and have to wrestle with the ignition (or not as the engineer now insists) and can’t get back to work until I’ve got the bloody thing sorted.

Bloody, bloody, bloody. That’s how it is today. So, having missed coffee with Annie through having to wait in for the boilerman, I’m bloody well bloody going to bloody Brighton anyway, and I’ll bloody well drink coffee on my own (but hopefully, not bloody coffee, as that would be vile).

1976 courtesty of Jef Poskanzer

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