Tim Dowling: will Kitch the electrician make me his apprentice?

Electricity has been restored to most of the house (only our bedroom is without) after I was talked through a complex elimination procedure over the phone by Kitch the electrician. I’m not sure I needed to run up and down the stairs quite so many times – I think he was probably sporting with me – but I don’t know enough about electricity to frame a coherent objection. I just have to believe everything Kitch says, except when he says he’ll be round on Monday.

He doesn’t turn up on Tuesday, either. But on Tuesday evening he calls my wife to announce his arrival on Wednesday morning. “I told him I wouldn’t be here,” she says. “He was very disappointed.”

“Where are you gonna be?” I say.

“I have a meeting,” she says. “You can handle Kitch on your own.”

“I’ll be apprenticed to him by the end,” I say. “But fine.”

At 10.30 Kitch appears with his tool bag. I haven’t seen him in two years. “Do you still have that coffee machine?” he says.

“Yes,” I say. “Do you take it black or white?”

“Let’s have a look at your problem first,” he says. I drag a step ladder into the hall and set it up under the fuse box. Kitch climbs up and looks in.

“It’s that one switch that keeps tripping,” I say. “Top-floor sockets.” Kitch gently lifts the switch. This time, for some reason, it chooses to stay up.

“No charge,” he says, climbing down. “God, I wish she was here for this.”

“Is that it?” I say.

“This is only the beginning, Tim,” he says. “Follow me.” We go up to the bedroom on the top floor.

“I unplugged everything,” I say. “Radio, phone charger…”

“I’ve got my eye on that thing,” Kitch says, pointing to a switch sitting low on the wall outside the bathroom.

“I don’t know what that does,” I say. “It was there when we moved in.”

“That’s your underfloor heating,” he says.

“I have underfloor heating?” I say.

“Don’t you notice your toes being warmed while you brush your teeth?” he says.

“I have nothing to compare it to,” I say.

“Anyway,” he says, “let’s take a look.” He unscrews the switch plate, exposing the wires, and touches something with the point of a screwdriver.

“That’s tripped it,” he says.

“How do you know?” I say.

“Because I’m a professional, sir!”

“But the fusebox is all the way down…”

“Here, if you don’t believe me!” he says, handing me a tester plug. “Plug that in over there.” I stick it in a socket.

“Has the little light come on?” he says.

“No,” I say.

“Because it’s tripped,” he says. “But it’s not this switch. There’s something wrong under the floor.”

“That sounds like a big job,” I say.

“Well, if you want underfloor heating, you’ve gotta pull everything up,” Kitch says.

“I honestly never even knew there was…”

“What you do is, next time you’re renovating your bathroom, and you decide you want Portuguese marble floors…”

“So it’s not urgent, is what you’re saying.”

“Just forget it,” he says. “Just tell her I said forget it.”

“OK,” I say. We stand in silence for a while. To have experienced the luxury of underfloor bathroom heating without ever realising it suddenly seems monstrously entitled, as if I simply expected surfaces to warm up in advance of my approach.

“You’ve isolated the problem,” Kitch says. “That’s the important thing.”

“Yes,” I say. “Why?”

“Because if it wasn’t for this, and my expertise,” he says, “we’d have to disconnect every plug and trace all the wires back. Time-consuming.”

“And it’s safe to leave it like this?” I say.

“Yes,” he says. “I’ve disconnected it.”

“As long as it’s safe,” I say.

“Meaning it’s not connected to anything,” he says.

“I get it,” I say.

“Right,” he says. “Let’s have that coffee.”

While we’re drinking the coffee, Kitch takes a call from a man who has tried to install his own light fitting. He looks at me and raises an eyebrow as the man explains he now has no electricity.

“Text me your address,” he says.

I can’t help feeling disappointed when he leaves without taking me with him.