Saturday, January 10

The Deluge

10th January
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 …


  1. Oh dear! Sorry you had such a rough day Lulu, but it sounds like you have some really awesome friends/neighbours on the rescue squad. Thank God for that, eh? I'd go quite mental if I had to manage the Lovely House by myself. Sending best wishes for an early spring!

  2. Bruno, Kitty, Freddie and Nina - oh Lulu you have such a gift for names.

  3. i am sooooo sorry! such an awful time at the house....
    not to be a depressing person but what will your landlord do to help prevent this from happening again as winter has a few more weeks to go?
    readers, should lulu buy a sump pump in case this happens again? then she wont have to sop up (caustic) water by hand? perhaps the landlord has one already....
    how are your hands today?

  4. Dear Lulu, come and stay with me next time you want to make a documentary about insects. We don't have any water pipes!

  5. Hope your skin has recovered from the caustic water. Ouch!

  6. This sounds truly ghastly. I'm glad that you have been rescued by your neighbours, but dare I ask how the ants are?

  7. Your stories are remarkable. And it is quite ironic to read online about your poor living conditions. I keep imagining you in an ice storm with water spraying out of pipes and cats chasing rats with ants on the walls - all while you are tap tapping away on a laptop.

  8. What a nightmare day - and what good friends. And I'm mightily impressed how you diagnosed what was going on with the water and the bricks...I haven't the nous to begin to do that. I hope the ants weren't incommoded.

  9. oh my lord! you poor thing.
    do you have super clean walls and floors now?
    that at least would be some consolation.

    did you ever see that BBC program on telly some years ago about English couples who buy a dud houses and renovate in hopes of becoming millionaires? they never did. i especially loved that couple that purchased the old chateau in the south of France with the nightmare leaking pool. and leaking roof. and leaking pipes. and no insulation. yeah that one was great. you just reminded me of it.

    thank heavens for nice neighbours!

  10. Thank you all so much for the concern. It really is fine now albeit a bit muddy - clay bricks tend to melt on contact with water so I don't have clean walls at all Ms Projectivist - there are quite a lot on English couples buying the sort of house the French describe as Un gouffre financier - a money pit.

    Hands have been slathered with E45 lotion and are fine thanks Deb and XL

    I'd love to stay with you Gorilla but it sounds as though you've eaten all the insects.

    The ants and cocoons are still sleeping Madame De Farge

  11. Katrocket and Brother Tobias - I've been very touched by the kindness of my neighbours.

    Wow - I don't actually type while the water is gushing you know, but I do find it a necessary catharsis after an event.

    Frankofile - What do you mean - that's what they're called.


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