The freeze went on for a few days and wasn’t a huge problem. I was using the fire for cooking anyway, the ironware fixed in the chimney (the cremaliere) includes a hook to hang cauldrons of lake water over the fire to heat for washing with. A few days ago My Dutch neighbours came by to see if I was OK and stayed for lunch – Kitty is petite and has showbiz pzazz, her voice is a husky purr, her enormous husband has a champion moustache. As they were leaving Kitty told me to call if ever I needed a beer and a warm up with her and the Walrus.
Then mid-morning yesterday Bruno the Knob Destroyer turned up with a bag of beetroot. He found me working outside.
You frozen up then?
Landlord never wanted to pay to wrap up the pipes – happens every year. You got any leaks?
It’s still frozen, I don’t know yet
Better go and have a look then
We went into the icy attic and looked where the pipes run along the wall - there was a slow drip from one place, it didn’t look serious but I went and turned the stopcock off, Bruno identified the source with a chalk mark and I left a phone message for the plumber.
Bruno went off and I went back out to work until the plumber came, I got completely lost clearing another area of brambles to feed my ongoing bonfire. I wandered back to the house in a filthy state, starving for lunch, it was much later than I thought. Then I heard a gushing noise as I approached the front door. I ran in, saw the flood, called the plumber - a little more hysterically this time, then set to work sweeping the water out of the house. The plumber arrived quite quickly he fixed the pipe and I continued to sweep the water. It turned out that the damage was in the hot pipe, a whole tank of hot water had emptied into the house.
When the worst of the water was out of the house, I sopped up the last puddles with a big cloth, using my hands to wring out the water into a bucket. The house walls are made from clay bricks mixed with ash, the water was very soapy and I realised that the hot water had washed down the bricks making the water caustic, I didn’t notice at the time because my hands were numb with cold.
I worked manically for hours but it was under control, I couldn’t see any lasting damage, it had happened during the day … could be a lot worse etc.,
It was only when I sat down and waited for a kettle to boil that I realised how tired I was and that my hands hurt. I then discovered that we had no electricity in the main part of the house (the Landlord had done the rewiring here himself because he hadn’t wanted to pay to have it done). Suddenly the house seemed like a cold wet monster and it was dark by this time.
I went into the bathroom with a torch and saw my face in the mirror – I looked like I’d been blasted from a cannon, I laughed at myself – then I started crying. I pulled myself together, had a cup of tea and decided that if there was ever a time to call Kitty for a beer and a warm up - now was it, I picked up the phone;
Hi Kitty are you busy this evening?
Yes darling we have guests for dinner
Oh never mind, another time
Is everything OK darling?
I assured her that everything was fine but she couldn’t understand what I was saying through my gulping and snotty hiccupping tears. Within ten minutes The Walrus had come round and made me get in his car.
The dinner party was in progress as I arrived and everyone insisted that I joined them, the other guests were two English couples, I knew them slightly but my disaster bonded us all in a sort of Dunkirk Spirit and soon everybody was fighting over who got to take me home.
I’ve ended up at Freddie and Nina’s ranch and it’s quite funny there …
Crime and Punishment - German playwright Ernst Toller was arrested for socialist activities in 1919. His 1937 collection of letters from prison, Look Through the Bars, includes t...
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