Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

Assuming someone had moved house before, and put a new boiler in their new house, while remaining a customer of British Gas, I set about doing that.

It never occurred to me that I might be the first person on the planet to attempt such a thing. Not for a second did I imagine I was a swashbuckling pioneer to come up with the idea of ripping out an old boiler at the same time as continuing to buy gas, electricity and home servicing from an energy supply company.

But it turns out I really was, or at least that is the impression I was given. Having decided to continue with the same company, rather than shop around for a new supplier who would charge me slightly less at first then much more in a year's time, I rang to ask about my service contract. The new house had a cranky old boiler that would be coming out at some point, I told them, so should I not cancel and restart the contract when I had the new boiler up and running?

The upshot of the discussion that ensued was that I really would be tempting Armageddon to cancel my Homecare policy. A sane person would surely keep it going, and when the new boiler was in book an engineer to come out and see it just to make sure British Gas was happy with it.

Sounded alright, as a plan.

My eye was then taken off the ball when an electricity smart meter was foisted on me a few weeks later. The builders let the guy in. I came home to find an evil little machine on my hallway table blinking about how much power I was using every second of the day. 'Total Today £0.14,' it said, at 16:36. Then at 18:33: 'Total Today £0.18.'

Why not issue me with a machine measuring how many breaths I've taken, counting down the gasps I've got left until I'm dead?

I unplugged it and threw it in a drawer. Did they know I had done this? I waited for a phone call or letter from British Gas ordering me to reconnect my doom-ometer.

But the only letter that came was to remind me that my annual boiler service was overdue. I rang the number. The wait was half an hour. 'I'll ignore it,' I thought. But the letters kept coming, and they got quite strict in tone, until they were threatening to stop insuring my boiler that hadn't been installed yet. …

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