The story so far:
On Monday, the builder claimed that he'd be able to finish everything by Friday, but then conceded that he'd need longer after repeated questioning by me. He also said that the electrician would come round on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the builder confirmed that the electrician was coming the same day. I told him to focus on getting the electricity and water sorted out by Friday. In the evening, I went down to the flat, but nothing had changed.
On Wednesday, I tried to phone the builder twice, but he didn't answer his phone. It wasn't turned off or engaged, and didn't go to voice-mail, it just rang, and I gave up after 8 rings. A cynical person might suggest that he's avoiding me... I went back down to the flat in the evening, and there's still no sign of any changes.
So, at this point I don't know whether the electrician has failed to turn up, or whether he's come and done an inspection but hasn't started the work, or whether he's injured, or dead, or what. In a sense, this isn't really the builders' fault, since the electrician may be letting them down. However, the whole point of getting them to subcontract work (and presumably take a cut of the money in the process) is to make my life easier. It's an issue of delegation, so they can sort out problems like this, and it's a "black box" from my point of view; I just deal with one company. Whereas if I have to make daily visits and do this level of micromanagement then I'm not really getting any benefit from the arrangement. In fact, I'm worse off since I can't hassle the relevant people directly. It may be significant that the things I'm happiest with so far (the fireplace and the burglar alarm/entryphone) are the things that I've arranged independently.
More generally, I think the ongoing problem is a failure to communicate. I'll try phoning the builder again tomorrow, but at this point I don't know whether he even knows about the delay with the electrician. If he doesn't know, then he should; it shouldn't be up to me to tell him, since that's the tail wagging the dog. If he does know, then he should have told me. In the same way, if he needs extra time to finish, he should volunteer that information, rather than me having to interrogate him.
On a separate issue, I spoke to British Gas to check on status there. This is something that's completely separate from the builders, but is also a tale of ineptitude. I don't have a record to hand of when I first applied for a gas supply, but it would have been sometime in April. Since then...
Thur 13th May: Gas survey scheduled, but the guy never turned up.
Fri 28th May: Survey done.
Wed 9th June: I phoned Fulcrum (the surveyors), and they asked whether the guy turned up (pleasantly surprised that he did). They said that he hadn't handed in his report, so I should call back on Friday.
Fri 11th June: Phoned Fulcrum again. The surveyor had handed in his report, so it had gone to the quotations department. They said that they'd write to me by the following Tuesday (15th June) with a quote.
Wed 23rd June: Phoned Fulcrum again, since there was no sign of the quote. Turned out that their surveyor didn't tell them where the flat was, or whereabouts the meter should go in the flat. He's now left the company, so they couldn't ask him. It isn't clear why they didn't try to contact me. Anyway, I spoke to the guy on the phone for a while to tell him where I live, and he said that they now have all the info they need. They said that they would hopefully get a quote sorted the same day, then pass on the info to British Gas, who would write to me, and I should receive a quote from them (in the post) by the weekend.
Mon 28th June: Phoned Fulcrum after continuing non-appearance of quote, but their line was engaged. Phoned British Gas instead, and they gave me a quote. As part of this, they got Fulcrum to fax over the information, so presumably it hadn't already been received. I paid them over the phone, and they said that I'd get a letter with an installation date within 3 weeks, but that it would take a couple of days to process the payment and pass on the details to Transco (the installers).
Fri 2nd July: Picked up letter from British Gas including quote and payment instructions. Verified that money had been taken out of my bank account (with online banking).
Wednesday 7th July: Phoned British Gas, they confirmed that they'd received my payment, and that I should hear from them within 3 weeks of the payment date (28th June), i.e. by Monday 19th July. They reckon that the installation will occur in the week commencing 19th July.
This seems like a pretty clear example of why [near-]monopolies are a bad thing.
Anyway, at this point I still need to decide when I want to move in, and I keep changing my mind. I'm now inclined to say that it's worth waiting an extra week, just so that I can have hot water soon after my arrival. More generally though, my main attitude is that I just want all this to be over. Ideally I would like to have the flat in decent condition, with all the work done, and I can see that it's easier to do stuff under the floorboards before all my stuff is piled on top of them. Mind you, I would also like to win the lottery and get superpowers, and those events seem equally likely to happen in the imminent future.
You may have noticed that there's been a fairly big shift in my attitude recently. This is something I've noticed about myself: I tend to be very easy going up to a point, but after that point (when I've lost faith in something) I am reluctant to trust the relevant person at all without some very solid evidence. An example of that here is that I'm wondering how to handle the payment issue, if I say "Screw it, I'm moving in anyway, and you're fired". The original quote was itemised into 3 sections, but none of those sections are actually complete. One approach would be to say "You haven't finished, therefore you don't get paid", or at least "The previous installments are all you're getting". But I doubt they'd be particularly happy with this. I could ask them to break it down further, but I now feel like that's asking for trouble - "Ah yes, it turns out that the work we haven't finished accounts for 50p of the quote, so you owe us the rest". As I say, the trust has gone...
Oh well, I shall phone the builder again tomorrow, then go down again on Friday for another inspection, and I can make my final decision after that.
On a more cheerful subject, I have read a couple of very funny comic strips about Spider-Man recently at Ctrl+Alt+Del - "Whatever a spider can" and "A webbed head". Thanks to billyabbott for telling me about this site :)