Sunday, 20 July 2008

Following the piper: I should have left well enough alone

The barathrum saga continues…

While my bathroom now appears to be a fully functioning – and, even if I do say so myself, rather attractive - room for human ablutions, it is really just a front for all sorts of nasty, leaky things going on behind the walls and under the floor. For this, alas, is the legacy of an old, old house.

What, I kept wondering, was that strange hissing sound I could hear when I got up in the night to pee, and sat there in my smart new bathroom, the silence that comes only in the small hours pressing down on the house? It sounded like… well… running water (and, no, it wasn’t mine).

The plumber was summoned and, having put his ear to various pipes, declared one to be leaking – inside the wall. My heart sank: it meant tiles had to be lifted, cement chopped up, and, once the leak was repaired, the wall and floor relaid. But there wasn’t really a choice: there was clearly a leak somewhere and, judging by the increasing volume of the hissing sound, it was getting steadily worse.

It took a lot of localised destruction and over four hours for the plumber to trace the leak – to a mysterious duo of pipes that ran under the verandah, to who knows where.

We stood and looked at each other for a while, the plumber and me. Then I gave myself the kind of shake that one does before a big gamble and said, ‘Cut them off and seal them closed.’

‘But we don’t know where they go,’ he said.

‘I don’t care,’ I said. ‘If we end up without water somewhere in the house, we’ll deal with that then.’

He shrugged in an ‘it’s-your-funeral’ kind of way and got to work.

Two hours later the problem pipes had been truncated and blocked, the hissing sound had stopped, and all the taps in the house (12 in total, including mod-con connections, shower and bath, plus two toilets) were producing water on order.

As to the endpoint of the two problem pipes? It remains a mystery. And until, probably, a geyser erupts somewhere in the middle of my kitchen floor one day, a mystery it will remain.

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