This morning I am sitting on my sofa, waiting for one of British Gas's finest to arrive. And it's awkward.
Not because we're experiencing central heating issues. Quite the opposite, in fact; my pipes appear to be in rude health, thank you very much. Which is just as well, given the impact Siberian winds are having on our climate at the moment. Sarah Palin might be able to see Russia out of her kitchen window - I suppose it gives her something to look at while gutting a salmon - but I can feel the Urals against my cheek whenever I step outside.
The gasman is here to service my boiler. To check that it's doing what it should and not what it shouldn't. Like emitting dangerous levels of carbon monoxide that will creep up silently behind me like a Japanese admiral before striking.
The awkwardness is because I'm pretty much hopeless when it comes to anything regarding domestic engineering. Plumbing, electricity, gas - there is no beginning to my talents. So whenever someone comes to fix things, I'm left there standing around like a spare part. There is, deep down in my male sensitivities, something that tells me I should be ashamed about this. But when I'm told: "Your pump header seems to be eroded and we'll need to reverse powerflush your rads," all I hear is: "I have a gelatine hovercraft called Nigel. The antelopes are humming. Anyone for tennis?"
It's not as if I can offer much of a service in return. Should the gasman want some analysis of the effect of principles-based regulation on the financial sector, a policy proposal on customer engagement techniques, or even some nicely worded copy on the latest developments in the mortgage market, I'd be OK. As it is, if we ever revert to a barter system, I'm screwed. I'd die hungry.
And probably very cold.
He's due at some point within the conveniently vague time slot of 8.00am to 1.00pm. Which pretty much puts paid to the whole 'going out to work' thing today. I've brought a whole bunch of work to do from home, and used half a day of my holiday allowance, to assuage any remaining guilt at being sofa-bound. You'll be pleased to note that the blog-writing is being done on the part of the day classed officially as 'holiday'. Perhaps I should be wearing a Hawaiian shirt or something.
Ah. I can see the gasman's navy blue van pulling up in front of the house. Good. I've just constructed a lovely pivot-table database in MS Excel. Hope he likes it.