Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

At that moment I was happily mooching around, doing not much, sitting outdoors, dreaming in the English weather before the heavens rain down, when all of a sudden I am upright like a bolt of lightening shot straight from the blue sky and out my mouth and I shout OH MY GOD THE DOORS ARE MADE OF ASBESTOS. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.

In this falling down three storey house of ours, in which we own the top floor and bottom floor but not the middle - like that is a wise policy in buying a house these days - then of course we have doors leading into what we call the common areas.

Common areas do not mean lose and vulgar women hanging over the banisters after midnight swearing until their lips turn blue. Only when I am really pissed off, or drunk.

The common areas are places like hall and stairs where the night inhabitants of the middle floor, MrPod and MsJuvenilePartyPiece, must pass in order to reach their own apartments when everyone else is in bed, safely tucked up and asleep. And to all of these entry doors leading from the common areas to the various apartments, the builder installed fireproofing panels. He converted the house sometime in the 1980s, when asbestos board was not yet banned and five-year stockpiles still remained, and he thus complied with all unrevised building and safety regulations.

(Incidentally, why these safety regulations exist I cannot imagine. Possibly in case Grit comes along with her slattern habit of placing a kilogram of green beans in a pan on the stove in a millimetre of water along with a conducting rod and a selection of flammable materials. This would be OK, but then she wanders into the office for two hours to drink beer and read blogs.)

But today I suddenly realise - no, I know for a total certainty - that this unscrupulous bastard of a builder nailed on the backs of the doors as his fireproofing material of choice, deadly asbestos. And we have found them very useful as pinboards. Worse, all the doorhandles have fallen off. Dig has bodged them back into place so they now grind away into the backs of the asbestos panels sending flurries of dust everywhere and killing us slowly.

The deathly door

At this point the internet comes in very handy. In thirty minutes I am an expert on UK building regulations 1970-2000 (domestic dwellings and conversions) and on use of AIB for fire insulation.

Within forty minutes I am on the phone to Neville at the local council's asbestos hotline where I converse in brown and white AIB and Type 2 asbestos testing procedures.

Within four hours I have contacted an asbestos handling company and set an appointment for Pete to come round, take a test sample and tell us within 48 hours if we are going to die, slowly, painfully, horribly, but not before I have hunted down that cheapskatingdeathdealing builder and shot him.

So Pete comes round, takes one look at the door and says, without a bat of an eye or a shadow of a doubt, Can you see the sparkle in the board love? That's Supalux. You can see the silicate particles. It's non combustible, has no dangerous substance and no special handling and when you're done with it you can tip it in your local skip.

Now of course I do not wish to worry any person out there, but this near-death experience with a panel of perfectly safe building material you can probably pick up at your local DIY store tells me not only that Grit is a bit of a twat, but also that near you there is a sophisticated track down system for asbestos and, if you are in any doubts, you will receive a prompt, efficient and courteous response from experts at the end of a hotline phone number.

And that expert's not me, clearly.

But if you have any missing teeth, give me half an hour and I bet I'd have some dexterity with dentistry.


Katherine said...

Oh Grit, can you come over and help me lay the cobbles and put up the garden room/ studio please? And while you're here, I'm still on the waiting list for my uterine fibroid...

sharon said...

Grit we have whole houses built of the pernicious stuff down here in Oz, although not ours I hasten to add. Also interesting ex-mining sites should you wish to visit.....maybe combine it with a trip to one of our lovely uranium mines. It could be listed as a sort of tourist's BOGOF, get all of your toxins in one go.

However, it is good to know that your local council does provide at least one useful service - and promptly at that!

The Gossamer Woman said...

What amazes me is how you convinced yourself that it was asbestos in the first place and you had a doomsday scenario all ready in your head and how quickly you acted on it and got other people mobilized. Bang, out of the blue like that.

I'm happy for you that it all turned out okay. You should be as alert with your green beans, silly woman.

kellyi said...

We've had the same near death experience too....only ours was installed by a former owner and DIY enthusiast (yes, the same one that installed the killer door - spot a theme here do you?)

Ours is in the roof of the garage, and the asbestos people said that we should just leave it until we decide to knock the whole thing down, and then call them in. Apparently it is only harmful if you disturb it.

Welcome back by the way! We've been on holiday too (only to Devon, not quite as exotic.) I went to bed at 2 a.m. in order to catch up on your recent events. Knackered now, but was laughing out loud last night/ this morning so worth it :)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

But Grit, Grit, Grit, has it not occurred to you that they are all in bed together? 'Sparkalite' (or whatever it was) was clearly a made-up name and did you notice that when he told you his hand was hovering nonchalantly behind him near the base of his back? That's because he had a Walther P38 tucked in his waistband, ready to - err - neutralise you if you bickered with him. It's him and the builder, they are out to destroy your family at all costs, beware Grit, beware!

And the couple on the middle floor, they are stooges, members of a sleeper cell, ready to burst into action the second, the second I say, that you get close to uncovering the truth.

If you need a safe house, just email me, ok?

Wife in Hong Kong said...

I'm bowled over by your energy. If I discovered asbestos I'd put it on my To Do List, leave it for several weeks then lose the list and finally decide we're all going to die of something so why not asbestos.

Grit said...

hi katherine! these sound like great home ed projects. so long as you don't object to squirrel with a pair of pliers, we'll be fine.

sharon, you are not quite making a case here for a move to aus, are you?!

hi irene, you are right. I can do big, but not beans.

oh dear kelly, asbestos is just everywhere isn't it? i have decided to strike it from my worry list and concentrate on crossing the road in front of buses.

do you know pig, i was absolutely convinced about this for a good 12 hours afterwards. i was sure he took one look at the door and thought *they're all going to die, better not say anything*.

hi wife in hk! well you are right about the many ways to die. i wish i would stop making lists of them though.

sharon said...

Oz is perfectly safe (ignoring the odd species of flora or fauna), if you are nervous just don't buy or rent a 'fibro' house! No worries, you can apply your own version of a 'strine accent there. Alternative version is 'no wukking furries' so my younger son who is steeped in such jargon tells me.