For most of the New Year weve been sweltering. The temperature and the humidity have both been astronomically high. Jake the Dog has been spending all day panting and drooling while Gilbert the Cat has been lying in the sun and smiling a catty smile all over his ginger face because, like all felines, he loves the warmth.
After far too many days and nights of this, I walked into the lounge to talk to Robin about something or other but, rather to my surprise, she wasnt there any more. Shed melted into a puddle of grease that shimmered on the carpet between her shoes. "This has got beyond a joke," said the puddle of grease, sounding very annoyed. "Bugger the ozone layer, bugger the expense, were getting air conditioning."
"Yes dear," I said. As one does.
Jake came in and eyed the puddle of grease thoughtfully. "That looks tasty," he said. He came closer and sniffed it, then he poked out a tentative tongue.
"Dont you even think about licking me up," said the puddle of grease. "Ill give you a terrible tummy ache." Jake took the warning to heart and he flopped down on to the carpet, heaved a deep sigh, and went to sleep, there to dream greasy dreams.
I rang my friendly electrician. "Do you supply and/or fit air conditioning units?" I asked.
"Yes indeed," said the lovely Rochelle. "In fact we do both! Ill send someone round to give you a quote."
No sooner had I hung up the phone than the doorbell rang. Once Id stopped Jake barking, I went to answer the door. There stood a man with a clipboard. "Hello," he said, "Ive come to work out a quote for air conditioning."
I took him into the lounge. "Mind you dont slip on the puddle of grease," I said.
He looked around the room and peered out of a couple of windows. "Perfect," he said in deeply satisfied tones. "I suggest we fix the unit to the wall over there, just above the bookcase. The external unit will sit quite nicely in the flower bed on the other side of the wall. Im afraid well have to dig up some weeds to make it fit properly. Will that be OK?"
"Thats fine," said the puddle of grease. "Dig up anything you like. Just give me air conditioning."
"Which side of the gate will the external unit be on?" I asked, peering out of the same window the man had peered through. "Oh," I said, answering my own question, "it will be on this side of the gate. Thats good. It means Jake wont be able to get anywhere near it. We dont want him peeing on it, do we? What happens when a dog pees on the external unit of an air conditioner?"
"Nothing good," said the man in sepulchral tones. He took a few photographs of the room to give to his workmen and then left, promising that hed email us a quote as soon as he got back to the office.
"Excellent," said the puddle of grease, sounding very satisfied. "Im glad the wheels are finally in motion. Im looking forward to solidifying again."
A quote arrived in my inbox. The email was terribly modern it had two links buried within it. One link allowed me to accept the quote and another forced me to reject the quote. Despite the eye-wateringly large amount of money printed on the bottom line, I clicked on the link to accept the quote. No sooner had I done so than the doorbell rang and Jake went berserk again. I held on to his collar and opened the door.
"Hello," said a young man, eyeing Jake nervously, "Youve accepted our quote, so Ive come to install your air conditioner."
"Come in," I said.
"Dont let him in," yelled Jake. "Hes an enemy. I want to kill him. And then I want to watch him fit the air conditioner. Itll be fascinating. Ive always wanted to watch an air conditioner being installed. Its my lifetimes ambition. Its number one on my bucket list. Whats an air conditioner?"
"Err Im not very good with dogs," said the young man diffidently. "Dont get me wrong. I love dogs. But I was chewed up and swallowed by a German Shepherd last week, and so Ive been a bit nervous of dogs ever since."
"Ill lock him in the bedroom," I said.
"No," protested Jake. "Not the bedroom. Anything but the bedroom!"
I took him off to the bedroom. "Thanks," said the young man. "My mate will be turning up to give me a hand in half an hour or so. Thats good it means well be finished in half the time." Frustrated howls from the bedroom bounced off the walls. "Ill just go and unload the van," said the young man, very brave now that Jake wasnt there to keep him under control.
He soon had all the bits and pieces of the air conditioner spread out all over the place. He was scratching his head in a puzzled manner when his mate turned up to help and it wasnt very long before they had the internal unit attached to the wall and the external unit sitting happily in what used to be a carefully cultivated weed bed, Robins pride and joy. A cable went from the unit to the main fuse box, so presumably it was powering up nicely. They fed a cable from the internal unit through the wall to the external unit and then they switched everything on to see if it worked.
"Thats a good sign," said one of the fitters. His head was cocked to one side and he appeared to be listening carefully. "There arent any funny noises coming out of it, and I can feel a blast of cold air on my face, so my initial assumption is that the thing is doing just what it says on the box."
I looked at the box. It said Panasonic on every side.
"Yes," I agreed. "That unit Panasonics really well. The performance is the very best display of Panasonicing that Ive ever seen, and believe me, Ive seen lots!"
The technician gave me a funny look. "Lets see if the heat pump pumps any heat." He pressed a button on the remote control and blasts of superheated air roared out of the unit. The temperature of the room rose noticeably and the puddle of grease began to bubble and boil. Wisps of steam rose from it and drifted towards the ceiling.
"Cool me down," begged the puddle of grease. "Right now! Pretty please..."
The fitter pressed another button on the remote control. The blasts of hot air faded away and soon a delicious chill permeated the room again. It got colder and colder and we all got more and more comfortable. Icicles dangled from my nostrils as I revelled in the waves of coolth. "This is just wonderful," said the puddle of grease. We watched it gradually solidify and before very long it was distinctly Robin shaped again.
"I feel better already," said Robin. She broke off one of my nasal icicles and began to pick her teeth with it.
"Robin!" came despairing screams from the bedroom. "Tell him I need to watch!"
Robin ignored Jakes agonised pleading and smiled winsomely at the technician. "Youre really cool stuff, you know," she said feelingly, and he blushed.
After the electricians had left, we freed Jake from the bedroom. He came into the lounge and looked at the air conditioning unit. "I preferred it when you were a puddle of grease," he said to Robin, and then he shivered.