Now, before I had my woodburning stove installed, I had to have the chimney swept so that it was all nice and clean. I'd made an appointment a few weeks ago, because at this time of year, as you can imagine, sweeps tend to be quite busy.
The day came for the appointment, which I had carefully inscribed in my diary. No chimney sweep. Oh well, I thought, I'll try another sweep. It's quite common, in London, for tradesmen not to turn up - they get stuck in traffic or on the previous job. You just shrug philosophically and phone someone else.
I phoned another sweep, and a very friendly lady answered. I explained that the sweep I had booked had not turned up. Could they do my chimney by Thursday - two days away? No, she said, she was very sorry but they were fully booked. Who was the sweep who had failed to turn up, she asked? I told her.
I rang the next sweep on the list and left a message, saying that someone had let me down and I needed to have my chimney swept by Thursday. Five minutes later, another very friendly lady (everyone in Gloucestershire seems to be incredibly friendly) rang me back and said they could do my chimney on Wednesday morning.
I sat back, feeling relieved, when the phone rang again. It was the original sweep. "I hear you've been telling everyone I didn't turn up for the job," he said. "You booked me for tomorrow, not today."
Oh. My. Goodness. I had been blackening his name (if you'll excuse the sooty metaphor) to half of Gloucestershire and all the time it was me that had made the mistake.
I apologised in a suitably fulsome manner. Then I rang the previous sweep and grovelled to the friendly lady, explaining that I would now have to cancel my appointment. She said that was perfectly all right.
The next day, the sweep turned up, on time, and I began to apologise again for casting aspersions on his reliability. "That's OK," he said cheerfully, "it was only my mum." What, his mum was married to the second sweep? "Well, he's her partner," said my sweep. What about the third sweep, the one I had to cancel? "Oh, that's my brother," said the sweep.
I've now made an appointment to have my other chimney swept. I have written it down in very large writing.