Bring Your Own Cans..

With so much going on around the place many seemingly lesser things have passed us by. Mike came into the kitchen yesterday morning looking sheepish. “I should have paid more attention to Physics lessons at school.” While it might have been an odd thing to hear I wasn’t, at that point, in full panic mode. But it didn’t take long.

We haven’t had oil fired central heating before. It’s always been gas. Either out of a big orange 47kg bottle, or several, or via a pipe from under the road. No, oil is something entirely new. Mike had been monitoring the oil tank ever since we’d moved in. Thinking what good value it must be, because the level of oil in the sight glass hardly ever moved. Even though it’s been the lousiest summer on record and we’ve had the heating on for at least some part of every day.

So it wasn’t until yesterday that the awful truth emerged. Mike had decided to investigate further and in doing so took the cap off the top of the sight glass. The level of oil in the plastic pipe went into freefall. Right to the bottom of the tank in fact. Gulp. What were the chances of getting an oil delivery before Christmas now? Probably about the same as the world ending anytime soon*.

After much ringing around and some frenetic search engine activity, Mike located a company selling heating oil via a pump in much the same way as petrol. His first stop was an agricultural store where he purchased eight 25 litre plastic containers with screw top caps. It was as many as they had. And then to the back end of an industrial estate over an hour’s trip from home. The screw caps turned out not to be watertight and, inevitably, during the return journey some of the oil leaked out. But that was nothing to the struggle to get the oil into the tank. Yesterday, you’ll recall, it was raining. Not light rain, either. The tank is located in the middle of a copse at the top of the drive. And the lid is at least six feet off the waterlogged ground.

In an effort to show solidarity, I rode shotgun for the second trip. By now the car had acquired the delicate aroma of petrochemical plant. Even with the containers empty once more, the windows had to be left open and the rain came in. Clearly, we’re not the only people on the learning curve of oil. At the depot, there’s now a 20 minute wait just to get to the front of the queue. And then the tortuous journey back up the A30. Every bend in the road a new opportunity for spillage. The sound of sloshing oil our accompaniment all the way home.


* 21 December 2012 marked the end of a phase in the Mayan calendar. Some had predicted it would coincide with the end of the world.


2017-11-07T19:36:10+00:00December 21st, 2012|Tags: |


  1. Cumbrian December 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Not trying to teach you to suck eggs, but sometimes if you put a plastic bag over the top of the plastic container then screw the lid on, it doesn’t leak so fast.

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Not egg-sucking at all – useful tip Cumbrian.

  2. Jill Chandler. December 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Oh I really feel for you.. We once had an oil delivery, at which point the old metal tank decided it had had enough and deposited the lot onto the ground.
    Bet you your Mike felt like a real dipstick and now has one!
    Seriously just glad you solved the problem.
    The other tip is to get an electronic monitoring effort. So you dont have to go out in any weather to dipstick, just sit and watch the guage go down from the comfort of your kitchen, as we all know it does go down, liquid gold.

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Yes, I’m just glad it came to light when it did. Before even the oil pump man went home for Christmas. Electronic effort sounds cool, must look into that.

      • shaz December 22, 2012 at 4:29 pm - Reply

        me too our glass tube is stained brown ………………..i suppose its possible to get replacements , in reality we ought to change the tank as its a single skin metal job thats almost 2o yrs old but the price of a new on is horrendous

        Pleased you got sorted even if the cars a bit smelly

        • Jessica December 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm - Reply

          I’m shocked at the price of so many things that we need for the house… most of which, like the heating boiler, will just have to keep going until they break. My dad once broke a large bottle of Tia Maria in the boot of his car. Apart from the sticky mess, we had to worry about being stopped by the police too… sniff sniff.

  3. Denise December 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Oh the oil running out! Yes can empathise fully! And the PRICE!!!!!!!! You can afford Oil as well as a new kitchen? Gosh the people we meet eh? lol!

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      We certainly paid through the nose for it this time Denise. Distress purchase or what!!

  4. Em December 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    I did exactly the same the first time we lived somewhere with oil….congratulating myself on how well I was doing as the gauge remained stationary. Then the heating stopped working and I had the free-fall experience. I felt SO stupid! One of the reasons we don’t have oil here; I couldn’t face the uncertainty and it’s not me that has to do the wood chopping!

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Oh, I’m so glad we’re not alone. Obviously it’s an easy mistake to make!

  5. haggiz December 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    I’m sure I read somewhere that you moved for an easier life, how’s that going then?! So glad you got it sorted. Julie x

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Julie, I’m coming to realise that there’s no such thing!

  6. Simone December 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    I can feel my stress levels rising just with the thought of it all! It could have worse, perhaps?!!!

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      It could. We got the tank to about one third full. Should be enough for now. Won’t be using the car much over Christmas though. Mike has it ‘airing’ in the garage with all the windows open..

  7. CherryPie December 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    What an ordeal! But at least you did manage to get oil at short notice.

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      By the skin of our teeth I suspect! Thanks Cherie.

  8. Ali December 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Thank goodness you have a blog. Because in the face of calamity, it’s reassuring to know that at least it’ll make for a great post! And good save with the emergency oil purchase (even if half of it is spilled in the car).

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      It’s one of the reasons I blog. It’s cathartic. And so much cheaper than the Shrink!

  9. elizabethm December 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    How great to have discovered your blog and just in time for Christmas too! Sympathise totally about the oil. We were ok here only because our predecessors had sorted out the electronic thingy which is quite cheap and easy I understand. My sister though had just your problem. In our first winter here we used very little oil because the central heating boiler just packed up and we spent hours huddled by the woodburner or diving like penguins into a hot bed in an icy cold bedroom.

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      Hello Elizabeth and welcome to rusty duck.
      I’m really going to have to look at those electronic thingys. I’m not sure I can endure all this grief again!
      Sympathise re central heating boiler too. Our inheritance is over 27 years old, are we living on borrowed time?

  10. where the journey takes me December 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    My sympathies – we have oil at the cottage but our clear tube that shows the level has a brass pull out ‘thingy’ and when pulled the level drops to show a true reading. We opted for this over the electronic one as they can also have their problems apparently. We always fill up in July as oil is cheaper in the summer but then we are not there all the time so it lasts us all year. Our nightmare would be to go up and find our oil had been stolen!
    On the bright side you have managed to get some oil and at least you will be able to keep warm over Christmas.

    • Jessica December 21, 2012 at 10:37 pm - Reply

      We will certainly be keeping a much closer eye on it from now on. Oil thieves worry me too. The damn stuff is so expensive these days. Perhaps we should revert to burning some of the fallen trees!

      • where the journey takes me December 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

        Then I think you will have come full circle to the Wood-stove and thatch problem!!! Methinks life is just never straight forward. Oh and be careful not to strike a match too close to your car – with all those fumes inside you might just find a new way of heating your house! Hope you had a great Christmas and thanks for the entertaining posts and comments this past year. Looking forward to more of the Rusty Duck tales next year. Viv x

        • Jessica December 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm - Reply

          Nope. Life is never straightforward. Thanks for your comments, Viv!

  11. BadPenny December 22, 2012 at 9:36 am - Reply

    You sound so upbeat now !
    Our boiler broke on New Year’s eve once. It was a rented house & to his credit the agent found a plumber ( I think my ranting on about freezing babies, broken window panes & withholding rent money helped )

    Have a wonderful stress free Christmas !

    • Jessica December 22, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Oh no! It reminds me we do need to find a reliable plumber, for just such an emergency.
      You have a really great Christmas too, Penny. And all the family. Jessica x

  12. Rosie December 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Thank goodness you managed to sort it all out before you ran right out of oil. Your journeys back and forth with the cans sound fraught with anxiety and then having to get the oil into the tank. My goodness, feet up and a glass of wine I think – at least the warmth will continue:)

    • Jessica December 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      It’s another one to chalk up to experience, I think! I’m glad I haven’t been keeping a tally.
      Keep dry, Rosie. Jx

  13. Sue December 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    We did something very similar at our last place and completely ran out of oil, there was no dipstick so we used an old broom handle as our dipstick after that and checked regularly.

    Of course we had an Aga then and we had to get it serviced and cleaned before we could fire it up again….so that cost us!!

    It’s the only way to learn sometimes 🙁

    We never relied on the gauge again!

    • Jessica December 22, 2012 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      We did take a lot for granted when on mains supply – gas, waste etc. It’s a whole different ball game out in the sticks!

  14. Lizzi December 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    We did the same !! and we had a guest house and we were full for Christmas!! No-one had explained to us that we had to pull the little stopper out – and we were thinking how economical it was. Luckily, we found the very helpful “Highland Fuels” who came to our aid on Christmas Eve.

    I am so pleased it all came right for you in the end, too.

    • Jessica December 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      Lizzi, hello and welcome to rusty duck.
      Oh my goodness! Thankfully it came right for you, you would have been a lot worse off!
      Do you still live in the Highlands? I love it up there.

  15. knitsofacto December 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Good Lord woman, there’s never a dull moment chez Rusty Duck is there!

    So glad you got it sorted, even if you have got a smelly car now. Have you thought to try using charcoal to mop up those fumes?

    • Jessica December 23, 2012 at 10:02 am - Reply

      No there isn’t! This is what a ‘quiet life’ really looks like..
      Charcoal, I’ll follow that up. Thanks Annie.

  16. starproms December 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    That was a nasty shock for you. So sorry you had to go through that just before Christmas. Life is full of surprises isn’t it and they’re not always good ones, unfortunately. Happy Christmas nevertheless.

    • Jessica December 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      There are people a lot worse off, those who have been flooded for instance. I hope all is well with you Oma, and that you are having a good Christmas. Jx

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