Gas Conversion

Published: 27/06/2011

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This story goes back to the time when gas appliances in England were being converted from methane to natural gas. A friend of Trevor's called Barney had a good job as a fitter of these replacement gas appliances. It was a lovely job because they were paid on piece rate. The more houses they could convert, the more they earned.

Barney got faster and faster at his job. He was expert at unscrewing the old oven and boiler parts, then whipping in the new fittings. He was so good that he could even convert the appliances without turning off the gas at the mains. Now to pull off this trick Barney trained his breathing along the lines of those boys who dive for oysters. He would take a huge lungful of air, take off with the old fitting - O.K. so gas escapes, but he soon whacked in the new shiny new joint, and then gasped another breath from an open window. There was one other proviso for this risky shortcut, the owner had to be out.

One day he knocked on the door, explained to the lady that he had come from the gas board about their north sea conversion. The owner was delighted that she was finally going to move from the smelly old gas to the new natural gas. She told Barney that she just had to pop to the shops and as her husband was working in the garden, Barney could go ahead with his fitting. Great thought Barney, this will be a quick job, no need to turn off the gas at the mains. The boiler was no trouble, but one of the jets in the oven was rusty and crusted. Even though the gas was escaping, Barney sprayed a can of WD-40 on the obstinate fitting and eventually it unscrewed and he whisked on the replacement part.

As Barney came up for air, to his horror, he spotted that the budgie in the kitchen was lying on its back at the bottom of his cage. It was not looking good, and to add to his trouble he could see the lady opening the gate at the bottom of the garden. What to do? Being resourceful, Barney cut a length of fuse wire and wrapped it around the dead budgie's legs and tethered him to his perch. As a nice touch he even set the perch rocking, and then turned and met the lady in the door way. 'All done,' Barney said as he sauntered down the path to the gate.

'Good grief, my budgie,' said the lady. Barney picked up the lady's bad vibes and his chances of legging it were not improved by the sudden appearance of the woman's husband blocking his exit. 'Come back here,' she said, and as his escape was cut off by the husband, he had no option but to turn and face the music.

'It's a miracle', the lady said, 'when I left this morning, my budgie was dead, now he's jumped up on his perch and is swinging away happy as you please'.