Friday, 27 July 2012

Stop, cock.

The water thing.  Part II.

The Wessex Water workmen didn't return the next day as originally promised, which meant we had a week or so with the jerry-rigged hosepipe supplying the house with running water.  In the meantime, the local plumber was summoned. He's a very charming young chap by the name of Ollie, does a good job, is polite, friendly and doesn't demand unlimited tea and biscuits. Plus the dog loved him.  He examined the work done outside, and then ferreted around the kitchen looking for water pipes.

He ascertained that all the pipes were sited behind the (new-ish) kitchen cabinets, so went to investigate the downstairs toilet for possible pipe access.

"Oh dear," he said. "It's a really nice little room, isn't it?"

Yes it is.  Thanks for noticing.  Oh, you mean too nice to hack holes in the walls to get to the pipes?  Yes, that too.

We had a cup of tea while we decided how best to approach the problem.  The problem being that the water pipes running from the OUTSIDE of the house to the INSIDE of the house are most likely in the same terrible colander-like state of corrosion as the external water pipes, and therefore need to be replaced.

And, of course, we have to arrange - and pay for - that part of the work to be done, hence the visit from Ollie the Plumber.  The tea drunk, we decided on a plan of action.  Sadly, some of the kitchen cupboard interiors would have to be sacrificed to the greater good, but there would be no visible damage to the exteriors.  I was ok with that, and set about emptying cupboards with a will. Mr WithaY deftly dismantled the complicated corner cupboard can-store mechanism thingy, and we were ready to go.

Well.  The plumber laid out giant dustsheets all over the kitchen floor and strewed a collection of tools across them.  The dog immediately sneaked in and stole one of his screwdrivers, carrying it proudly to Mr WithaY. We returned it, and tried to teach the dog what "Get the most expensive-looking drill" means, but to no avail.

Ollie the plumber began carving holes in the back of the cabinets.  He was very careful and tidy, but even so.  When you've spent a bloody fortune having your kitchen refitted from top to bottom, it's not much fun watching it being partially dismantled and hacked about to fix something that is beyond your control.

I closed the door and the dog and I sat companionably in the sitting room, trying not to listen to the sound of holes being drilled in the house.  Every so often I would pop my head into the kitchen and see how things were going.  There was a deep, deep hole running from the back of the cupboard out to the garden.  Ollie was trying to connect it up with the hole on the other side, and wasn't having much luck, it seemed.

The drilling continued, the house shook, the dust levels increased, and the long day wore on.

Eventually the plumber came and found me.  He was unable to go any deeper until we had the septic tank emptied, as it was so full that it was backfilling the hole as fast as he pumped it out.


So.  We booked the nice man with the shit-sucking truck to come and do the dirty deed, and once that was complete we could get the plumber back to connect up the interior pipework.  Once THAT was done the Wessex Water chaps could come back and reconnect our water supply to the proper underground pipes rather than the temporary blue plastic hose.

It was like some sort of evil nursery rhyme.  The old lady who swallowed the fly, then swallowed the spider and so on until she swallowed a horse*.  

Anyway.  Where there was once a deep pit several inches full of dirty water, now there is a tidy patch of concrete with a neat little plastic drain cover in it.  And we have a stopcock inside the house, which I don;t think we had previously.  All we need now is the bill from the plumber.

One a different note, this week I watched a 1970s TV documentary about the first English chapter of the Hell's Angels that I was pointed to via Twitter.  It was interesting, in a weird "Withnail and I" way, and the voice-over commentary made it sound like an old Monty Python sketch.  One of the gang had wildly crossed eyes, the result, the commentator explained neutrally, of having "both his eyes knocked out of their sockets in a fight."

The thing that struck me the most, apart from the lack of traffic on the streets, was how young they all looked.  I assume that's because I am getting old.

*She's dead of course.

Friday, 13 July 2012


Well yesterday was exciting.  Mr WithaY was off out working, and after we'd walked the dog, he headed off by about 9am.  So far so good.

I pottered around in the kitchen for an hour, doing the usual domestic drudgery stuff, but that came to a grinding halt when I realised that we had no water coming out of the taps.  To be specific, there was no hot water coming out of the kitchen tap, and the barest trickle of cold water.  There was no water at all upstairs.

I went over to the petrol station and asked if they still had water.  Yes they did.   I asked our immediate neighbours if they had water.  Yes they did.

Oh good. Just us without, then.

In the course of the conversation with the neighbour, he told me that there was a "huge leak" in the village somewhere, which the people at Wessex Water had been looking for for months.  My heart sank. I telephoned Wessex Water and told them that I had no running water, but the neighbours did. They were very helpful and said that they'd send someone out "soon."  

Sure enough, a short (ish) time later, a large smiley man knocked on the door.  I took him round to the back garden and showed him what I had discovered - namely that the hole in the patio where the main water stop-cock* is sited was completely full of water, and a small spring could be seen in one corner, making a pretty cascade across the garden.

He stripped off his high-vis coat and plunged an arm into the water to turn off the water at the mains.  A few moments later, his hand emerged, clutching the broken stop cock.

"Ah,"  he said.  "That's not supposed to happen."

We agreed that it was unfortunate, standing out in the rain as he tried to massage life back into his arm.  Apparently our cold water is really, really cold.

He sucked his teeth.  I hopped from foot to foot anxiously. Water continued to cascade across the patio into the lawn, making an impromptu bog garden feature.

"Well, the guys are on their way," he told me.  "I'll wait in the van till they arrive."  Off he went.

Some time later, two chaps arrived with a lot of digging equipment, and a small pump.  Things got noisy.  A large hole was dug.  More water was pumped out of the hole and across the garden.  The dog was beside herself with excitement, so I only took her out into the garden when she had her lead on, as I didn't want her to run into the way of the workmen, or, more worryingly, run out of the garden if the gate had been left open.

After a couple of hours, the workmen showed me the water pipe they had extricated.  It looked like a long cylindrical colander, peppered with small holes, one huge hole at the end.   Apparently it must have been leaking for years, which explains why the patio is in such a terrible state at that end of the house.  The good news was that the pipe can be replaced. The bad news is that there's more pipe, probably in a similar terrible state, running up into the house, and anything inside the house is our responsibility, not that of the Wessex Water people.


Another prolonged period of drilling, pumping and stop-cock jiggery-pokery** followed, and the workmen told me that the water "ought to be working ok" now.

Nope.  They then tried to rejig the water softener that lives under the kitchen sink in case that was the problem.  Nope.  They sucked their teeth and hummed and hawed.  One of them said "This looks like a pretty new kitchen.  I don't suppose you'll want to have all these cabinets cut out, do you?"

No I fucking won't.

The long afternoon wore on, the rain continued to piss down relentlessly, and I was still without running water.  The workmen rigged up a sort of interim system involving long plastic tubes which at least allowed me to use all the taps in the house, and left, having called the Wessex Water plumber to come and "sort it out for you."

I took the dog for a walk, despite the monsoon that West Wiltshire was currently enjoying.

On our return, the plumber rang and said he'd be there in 15 minutes.  Sure enough, he arrived as promised, and I explained the situation to him.  He looked at the water softener, then at me.  

"I'm really not sure why they called me in, to be honest," he said.  "I don't think the water softener is the problem here."  I agreed, but for the look of the thing we went through a complex rigmarole of turning taps on and off as he fiddled with various stop-cocks under the sink.  After a few minutes of this, we agreed that the water softener was indeed functioning fine, and the real issue was the perforated water pipes under the house.

So, that's how things have been left.  The workmen promised that they'd be back today to finish up, but so far there's no sign of them.  My back garden is still a tangled mess of bright blue pipework, bags of cement, heaps of spoil, and of course all the crap we took out of the garage and stacked on the patio till we could find a home for it.

And of course, it's still pissing down.

In other news, the dog is brilliant.

*Sorry. It's hard to talk about this without using many, many double entendres.
**Told you.

Monday, 9 July 2012


"sti makes bumble bee drone independent of engine"


Blog search criteria.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Good, Dawg

Hello.  Hello hello hello.  Sorry.  I know.  Been a while.  I have no excuses to offer other than the usual "I was far too easily distracted to focus on writing a blog post" which I know is lame and weak and terrible.

Anyway. We're all here now.

In a nutshell:

1)  Job news.  I had a job interview a while ago, following an unexpected email.  I thought the interview went well, and they told me at the end of it that I could expect to hear back from them in a "few days."  Almost two weeks went by, then I finally got the long-awaited email.  In it, they told me that they had decided to go with Agency staff rather than taking on someone for the short term.  Fair enough, but what annoyed me was their statement that their Agency staff had started work "this Monday."  I got the email on the Thursday. So, they must have known they were going to hire Agency staff at the end of the previous week, and could have emailed me a week before they did.  Which would have saved me a week of anxious (borderline obsessive) email-checking.


However, on a more positive note, I have actually got myself a different job. It's part-time, only a few hours a week, but it is within walking distance, doing something I like.  I shall be a supper cook at a large residential care home, which is something I have become quite interested in since poor old Father-in-Law WithaY went to live in a nursing home.  It makes such a huge difference to his day when his food is prepared just how he likes it.  I like to think I could make that sort of positive contribution to peoples' days too.

I'm waiting for them to get the relevant references and security clearances sorted out, and then hopefully I can start work shortly.  The best thing is that it will allow me to get on with other catering work-related stuff during the day, AND do social stuff in the evening, as the hours are so handy.  

2)  Home improvements.  We've had the garage transformed from a fetid, cobwebby filth pit into two smart rooms, one to be a workshop for Mr WithaY, and the other to be a storage space for the planned catering business.  We need to get the wiring done, and new lights fitted, but after that I can get a decent freezer and a blast chiller/fridge in there, and we're good to go.  I'm still waiting for the local environmental health people to come and inspect the kitchen, but once they've done that I think we can start with all the "making and selling tasty treats" activities we have in mind.  

Mr WithaY spent most of Thursday painting both rooms a smart shade of magnolia.  There was a second coat on Friday, and then he painted the floors with some special floor paint.  I think it reduces slip hazards, or increases traction, or keeps the dust down.  You get a plus-6 buff on your Stamina stats when you walk on it.  It kills ants.  Something.

The only downside is that the back garden is stacked high with all the fetid cobwebby shite that was in the garage.  In the rain.  We have to sort it out and decide what we'll keep, and where we'll put it.

On that note, we put some things by the front gate with a "FREE! Take me home!" sign on them.  An old wooden kitchen chair.  A cassette/radio player.  Some assorted oddments.  But by far and away the most popular were the Kilner jars.  Father-in-Law WithaY was an avid bottler of fruit, and when we cleared out his house there were about 70 Kilner jars, many with fruit still bottled up inside them.  We put the jars in the garage.  Come reckoning day, out they came again.  The fruit - whatever it was - had turned brown and fragmented, lurking in thick viscous jelly.  I made an executive decision that there was no way on Earth that we were going to eat any of it, so spent a jolly afternoon prising the lids off, dumping the contents into many, many big plastic sacks, and putting the empty jars through the dishwasher.

As an interesting aside, the addition of 9 year old sauerkraut to a giant bag of mixed mystery bottled fruits creates a pungent and powerful aroma that stays with you for days.  Days.

I digress.

The clean jars and lids were put into boxes and placed outside, where they were rapidly snapped up by incredulous passers-by.  One lady said to me "If you come home one day and find a jar of marmalade on your front doorstep, it will be from me, as a thank you."  Nice.

One chap was less pleased.  He stood looking at the jars for some time, humming and hawing.  I happened to wander out into the front garden and he said "Are these Kilner jars?

I said they were.

"Aren't they supposed to have rubber seals?" he demanded.

Mr WithaY wandered over and told him that rubber seals could be bought via the Internet very easily.

"Hmph.  Well.  I don't think I'll bother," he grumbled, and drove off into the sunset, disgruntled and jar-less. 

3) Grand days out. We went to the Chalke Valley history festival  last weekend.  Well, Mr WithaY was actually taking part, as a dashing swordsman. He and our mate from Gloucester went along on Friday (in the posh and comfy motorhome) and I went with some friends on Saturday for a day out.  We took a monumentally excellent picnic, the sun shone and there was a flypast from a Spitfire.

I'm rather proud of that photo, given that it was flying a looooong way off.

See?  There are some of the crowds, watching it going back and forth over the showground.  See it?  Almost directly over the apex of the big white tent.

I took an even better photo than that, if you can believe it:

I went to one of the talks - a discussion on the life and work of Elizabeth David, supposedly - but it was a bit disappointing.  Of the three panellists, one was a biographer, one was a food writer and the other was the chairman of the Guild of Fine Food (I think) but they managed to make the hour feel like an awkward dinner party conversation between people who disliked each other and only socialised because they were forced to  through work.  A shame.

Other than that, an excellent day.

I like the juxtaposition here of the Roman gladiator, the Medieval knight and the two seconds for an Eighteenth Century gentleman's duel.  Apparently the chaps being gladiators were picked for that role because (and I quote the knight there) "They're the only skinny bastards in the group."

I particularly liked the chillout tent, fitted out with squashy sofas and a couple of classical musicians, filled with people of a certain age* reading the papers and drinking tea.  Civilised.  Now that's what I call a history festival.  

We're definitely going again next year.  

4)  Family addition.  This is the most recent, and the most significant, event of note to take place in the WithaY household.  We are about to hear the patter of tiny paws.  No, I'm not having a baby.  With paws. That would be freaky and wrong.  No, we're getting a dog.  I feel the need to shriek like Daisy Steiner when I say that, but I will try to refrain for the sake of Mr WithaY's sanity.  She's black Labrador, a breed which I think is actually compulsory in this village, and she arrives next week. She's 4 months old, is already called Hester, and is absurdly cute.  

Her current owner brought her (and her brother Henry) round last night.  They both peed on the kitchen floor - something I suspect I will have to deal with more than once in the next few weeks - and then spent some considerable time finding onions in the vegetable rack, carrying them carefully to their owner, and dropping them at his feet.

This activity exhausted them, and they both fell asleep on the kitchen floor, waking only to come with us into the sitting room where they both fell asleep on the new dog bed.  Awwwh.  

So.  Expect numerous and probably dreadful posts about how cute/clever/obedient the new dog is.  They are likely to be a tissue of lies. LIES.  

*About my age, probably