Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Meltdown - Tuesday

‘Look at that.’ exclaims trainee F as we take a rat-run short cut down a car-crowded street, to try and avoid the traffic. He’s pointing to another Victorian terraced house with a set of ugly solar panels despoiling the roof. ‘They really seem to be catching on.’

‘Wall cladding was fashionable for a while, too,’ I tell him sarcastically. ‘Now it’s about as popular as the plague.’ ‘Yeh but if it saves the planet and everything.’ Continues F. He’s only with me to help measure-up an empty home. I can’t be arsed to try and fix the tape end to another radiator, only for it to pull off half way across the room again. The days when you could guess a room size are long gone.

‘Do you think a brace of bug-ugly roof panels will stop the North Pole from melting?’ I ask sourly. Even as I say it I recognise I’m being grouchy and I also recognise nobody really understands the science yet. But I have a feeling it’s a cumulative effect, born of having too many setbacks and getting hot under the collar too often. Cranial warming?

‘Yes but you have to start somewhere.’ Persists F. ‘You know what the insulation qualities of an average home in this road are?’ I snap, waving at the elderly housing stock and braking sharply as some oik on a skateboard flashes out from behind a parked car, giving me the finger in surly response to my angry wave.

‘Probably band D or E?’ Replies F to my surprise. It seems someone actually takes notice of the Energy Performance Certificates. Perhaps it’s a generational thing? The expensive and inefficient roof panels on the property we’re discussing certainly aren’t generating much. Not if you take into account the upfront cost. A payback of a couple of decades and/or someone else having a leasehold interest in your roof, doesn’t appeal to me. But then F is going to be around for long after I’m gone - unless I top him first.

‘Roof insulation, double glazing, cavity wall insulation.’ I advise F as we reach a junction to discover the dodge was worthless, as the traffic is still gridlocked. ‘In that order?’ Asks F, as I wind down the window and try to look plaintive - and not too like an estate agent.

‘Probably,’ I intone as four cars in a row inch past and pretend they haven’t seen me. ‘But I’m none too convinced about cavity wall insulation if I’m honest. They used to pump foam into them in the seventies and eighties, and the moisture ended up bridging the cavity and rusting the wall ties.’

F looks at me with what borders on unsettling affection, before saying. ‘Man you’ve been around, like forever.’ ‘Thanks.’ I mutter as a woman doing her lipstick and talking into a mobile phone declines to let me into the traffic. Magnificent multi-taskers women, they can check their makeup, discuss their boyfriend and snub a man in a company car all without dipping the clutch. No wonder they’re taking over the world.

Perhaps I’m in denial? Perhaps if I came back in a hundred years or so, every home would have triple glazing, grass growing on the roof and its own solar generated power source. Although in the fifties people thought we’d be in flying cars by now, not sat nose-to tail in diesel fumes waiting for some bastard to let you out.

I passed an unfamiliar school not long ago and thrusting out of the yard was the incongruous sight of a vast white pole, topped by a spinning wind turbine. Somehow the governors had circumnavigated the planning regulations – you’d think there’d be little spare cash for brown envelopes and backhanders on the parent/teacher association – and this thing was now despoiling the playground.

The only time these turbines seem to spin fast enough to generate anything other than righteousness they end up slicing songbirds. I’d imagine depositing diced feathery bits of blackbirds on the tarmac would necessitate extra counselling for the kids, although it might create a few more vegetarians and save a few frogs from being dissected.

But then what do I know?

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