Misty moisty mains pipe

How nice to walk into the bathroom and not hear a strange, baffling, gradually increasing hissing noise.

It started a few weeks ago. Took a while to notice because it was very similar to the noise the toilet makes just before it’s full, and you don’t hang around in the bathroom waiting for the flush to finish, do you? But I became aware that the hissing was still going on.

The mains pipe and waste pipe for the flats above ground level go up in the corner of the bathroom, masked off by some wooden trunking. It was fairly easy to identify the sound as coming from the trunking. The cause was another matter. No sign anywhere of any kind of leak. One thing I thought I knew about this old building: it does not conceal leaks well. When it has a leak, it makes sure everyone knows about it.

A plumber identified the noise as water moving along the pipe rather than coming out, and wondered if someone somewhere had a tap running, or maybe a faulty toilet valve so that the toilet kept refilling but overflowed straight into the bowl, so no one noticed. Checks were performed. No one saw anything. The noise grew louder.

If there was a leak, I thought, then logic suggested the basement flat would be the ones who would really notice. I asked and, yes, they had heard the noise but no sound of a leak. The tenant’s partner’s father is a plumber – he’ll look at it. Oh, good.

The noise grew louder …

Sunday evening, the tenant mentions that water is coming through the rear wall of the bathroom.

Things I didn’t know about the old place: because the pipes visibly run through our bathroom, I assumed they did likewise downstairs. They do not. They are the other side of a partition wall that separates their bathroom from the empty space beneath the front steps. The space is lined with concrete and could do a lot of filling up without anyone noticing …

In fact it was only about 2″ deep. The water was jetting from the mains pipe straight onto the waste pipe, which nicely atomised it and caused it to spread around the cavity as a gentle mist. That was what was accumulating on the partition. Mr Dynorod was called and we heaved a sigh of relief to see that he was a skinny type who could easily fit through the inspection hatch in the partition, which is about the size of a large computer monitor.

The water drained away overnight, which is kind of a shame because I was looking forward to playing with the siphon pump I bought off Amazon for a fiver. Now to blast the space with heater and dehumidifer.

Tenant’s Partner’s Father hadn’t looked behind the partition for fear of liability – eviction proceedings are already going on and they feared that it might cause damage would be one more thing to hold against them. I could do it as a member of the management company. One very positive outcome of this has been her learning that there is someone friendly and sympathetic in the building – it’s possible she thought we were all in thrall to her landlord. But this is a public blog and I’ll keep that for another time and place.

Nothing but the roof

This is the man who has come to stop our roof leaking. It looks much scarier when you realise that he is standing beyond the gully of the two roofs, on a ledge that extends beyond the left-hand roof for about ten feet; and while the roof on the right extends to the end of the ledge, on his left there is a four-floor drop.
When he came to give us an estimate he calmly waltzed out onto the ledge, squatted down, checked the lead, stood up, pirouetted a couple of times, scratched himself and performed a quick interpretative dance to the tune of what I presume was the Czech national anthem. When he came today, lugging his flamethrower and associated gas tank, I expected him to get out onto the ledge by a series of backflips just to show that he can. Anyway, I was sufficiently convinced that this guy is used to working on roofs. It also helped that having seen the stains on the walls of the flat below, he could head straight for the site of the leaks and find the holes. Rather makes you wonder what the earlier cowboys did, doesn’t it?
So, all done and no more leaks. We hope.

The Christmas of Multiple Malfunction

All within the space of a few days …

1. The shaving mirror light. Not the end of the world – the main bathroom light casts enough light to shave by, even if I do have to probe the razor into the deeper crevasses of my rugged features guided by little more than guesswork.

2. The boiler pump. Considerably more tedious: a trickle of warm water into the hot water tank and nothing at all into the radiators. But we have enough electrical heating devices to keep us warm, even if it does mean we can’t move about in a comfortable ambient temperature; rather, nice warm room through sub-arctic hallway into nice warm room again. And it inspired us to work out how to bleed the flat’s ancient and idiosyncratic system of wainscot radiators.

3. The renewed living room leak. Very, very, very, very, very tedious indeed, not least in its sense of timing – first detected by Bonusbarn shortly after midnight on Christmas Day, meaning he never got to see the end of that classic slice of festive cheer, Scarface. Just like in the glory days of a couple of months ago when the builders were battering and clattering in the flat above, thread-like streams of water were trickling down the outer wall of the living room. From previous experience, this means they will also be trickling down the wall of the kitchen in the flat above, but invisibly, behind the plasterboard and newly fitted cupboards. Most baffling of all was that it had rained heavily the previous day (and many times over the last month, of course) and nary a drop; now, out of a cloudless crystal sky, it came. A bit like those horror movies where the walls inexplicably start weeping blood, only in this case it was water. After baffled wails of “why now?” and putting out the buckets and towels, I emailed the flat’s owner in the childish hope that he would read it early on Christmas Day and have the rest of the day spoiled, which is exactly what happened, so there. Rather satisfying was his response: he’s also baffled, and annoyed because he has recently paid off two roofers, arf. My current theory is that the freezing weather had undone something that they did. It leaked again overnight between Christmas and Boxing Day, and is now in full trickle as a result of 24 hours of sleet and rain.

The Daily Bread Bible notes for Christmas Day concentrated, perhaps a little predictably, on the birth of Jesus as recorded in Luke 2. I liked the point they made that Mary, having been so obedient in everything according to the divine plan, might reasonably have asked why she now had to travel 100 miles on donkeyback and give birth in a manger – but, she trusted. Things like this help you trust if you’re open to learning. I hope we’re learning. I think we are.

But apart from that, a lovely Christmas, thank you. The main meal on the 25th was mostly vegetarian, simply because of the large proportions of vegetable: roast potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips, plus a very large helping of stuffing provided by Ex Mother in Law in Law, and Delia Smith’s red cabbage and apple recipe, which Delia says feeds four but neglects to add “for a week”. And of course the Christmas pud, set alight with the help of Tesco’s Three Barrels VSOP brandy, which is one price tab up from Tesco Value Brandy and does at least come in a proper brandy-shaped bottle. Then to my parents and now back here again, finally settling into one place so we can do things like call electricians and gas engineers.

Before setting off to my parents we put aside the new DVDs received for Christmas, so that even if we returned to an uninhabitable living room we would still have something to watch as we moved into hotel accommodation / in with friends /whatever. And that, I think, is what we will go and do now.