The Great Outside Tap Disaster

IF we’re to believe some people, we have neither “proper” summers nor “proper” winters any more. The former, we presume, lasted from June to September and were filled with picnics, lazy days in the countryside and watching cricket on the village green. The local papers were full of pictures of babies with handkerchiefs on their head and children splashing in the municipal fountain, while the nationals proclaimed, “Phew what a scorcher”. Indeed, the only clouds on the horizon (if you’ll pardon the pun) were the threat of a hosepipe ban and finding one’s shoes stuck to the kitchen lino with melted Tarmac from the street.

Winters, on the other hand, brought sub-arctic temperatures and wall-to-wall blizzards from November to Easter. They were bitter enough to kill all the germs so we never got colds. And they obligingly occupied the correct time of year so as not to confuse our flowers and vegetables, and we all knew where we stood.

Well, I hope the “proper winter” brigade (let’s call them the PWB for short) are happy with our recent performance. After all, December 2009 and January 2010 were pretty spot-on, winter-wise: prolonged snow and ice, abandoned cars, councils running out of salt. Got to be worth a nine out ten. Now here we are in November 2010 – and, oh, here we go again. Blizzards, lowest temperatures since The Great Cold Snap of ’91 (although the PWB would probably wish to refer me at this point to The Great Freezes of both ’47 and ’63) and even frozen windscreen washer jets on my car. It’s all quite “proper” enough for me, thank you very much.

This morning the thermometer in my car read -8°C. The thought occurred to me that it might have been a good idea to protect the outside tap from freezing, but that it was, perhaps, already too late. Having endured a most unpleasant frozen pipe episode during The Great Cold Snap of ’91 I had no wish to repeat it and lost no time in assessing the situation on arriving home.

Alas, the tap wouldn’t budge and had clearly succumbed to the inevitable in some part of its own mechanism and possibly the connecting pipe as well. Since, however there were no bulging icicles on the outside and no obvious splits, ruptures or trickles under the sink inside, there was hope, and I was comforted.

While the kettle boiled I set about pouring neat screenwash into the reservoir in my car in hopes that a night in the garage and stronger chemicals would fortify the washers more effectively for the repeated freezes which, we are assured by The Met Office, are on the way. Upon my return to the outside tap my wife had freed it with boiling water and all seemed to flow freely, enabling us to turn off the valve inside and empty the four inches or so of connecting pipe to the tap on the outside wall. Phew. Let us give thanks, then, for disaster averted.

As I dwelt on the day’s drama I recalled another time, another address, another outside tap. Poor thing didn’t stand a chance. But it wasn’t the weather that did for it; rather, a carelessly placed car boot that, um, snapped it off.

It may have been 1984; I just forget. It’s possible it was the first time the driver had reversed down the driveway, having only just moved into the house; I really can’t say. And there’s a remote possibility the driver had literally just finished pontificating to his significant other on the importance of taking extra care when reversing; even, if uncertain, requesting assistance. Had that been the case, the tap snap fracas would be deeply embarrassing to the driver, but, well, it’s all in the past and the details are hazy so let’s not dwell on it.

Suffice to say that it is this, my early lesson in humility and emergency plumbing, rather than today’s chilly but otherwise admittedly anti-climactic tap-related shenanigans, to which our title alludes. So now it is, inevitably, over to you.

Are you already looking forward to the spring? Or are you a card-carrying member of the PWB? And have you, indeed, had any memorable encounters with an outside tap? I look forward to hearing from you.


Domestic minutiae of the middle-aged mind

It’s been on too long and it doesn’t fit. Now, the first detail you may not wish to know and the second you may not find in the slightest bit interesting, but what you’re getting here, like it or not, is but a wee glimpse into the Stuff Around The House folder in the third drawer down of my internal filing cabinet. (I should clarify that by “internal” I mean “in my head” as opposed to “not kept in the garden” and by “filing cabinet” I really mean…no, I’ll assume that my meaning is clear and simply add a new mental note to the Stuff For The Blog folder – kept, naturally enough, in the very top drawer – to explore the idea in a future episode.)

My Stuff Around The House folder (which I shall from now on refer to as simply SATH or “the folder”) houses an array of notes, to-do lists and apparently fascinating yet ultimately pointless observations on matters domestic, household, horticultural and automotive. One of my current observations, for example, is the dead spider suspended by its web from the inside handle of the rear porch door. It is fascinating because it conjures up questions about the spider lifecycle and why and how it became deceased while going about its spinny business. It is, on the other hand, pointless because (a) I have no intention of further researching the matter and (b) I’m quite unlikely to clean the corpse and its thread away, or at least not until April.

Having set the context, then, if not the scene, we return to that which has been on too long and doesn’t fit. I refer, of course, to the fitted sheet currently on my bed. While it tries its best it is nonetheless approximately 3% too small and has to be stretched forcibly over each corner of the mattress when first applied and every morning thereafter. Rippage will follow any day soon, I am sure. That alone would qualify it as having been on too long, but there is a supplementary reason, namely that it has exceeded the Standard Weekly Bed Changing Interval (as laid down in my 1984 memorandum, still mentally paper-clipped to the inside cover of SATH). Doubly compelled, then, I shall no doubt remove the offending article within the next day – or three…

And so, having given you an insight into the domestic alleyways, jittys and cul-de-sacs of my mind, let me conclude by asking the obvious question – the one that surely struck you several paragraphs ago.

Is the third drawer down really the best place to keep my SATH?


Someone tell me why I should tweet!

Never done this before. Blogging, that is. It’s yet another communication channel I’m launching into later than what must be at least a squillion other people.

(I know. I wrote “squillion” and it’s not an actual number. Is it? Drat, better go check before I build a whole routine on a false premise – or, at least, on the premise that something is false – that is to say, that squillion isn’t a genuine number – when, in fact, it’s not true to say that it’s false…or something.

Well, as it turns out it actually is a number; it’s just that nobody knows what it is. If I’d taken the trouble to Google it before I started this I’d have saved myself a whole load of typing because I’d have found this right at the top of the results:

Urban Dictionary: squillion
A word which can be used to indicate a large amount of some thing. Much larger than a million but smaller than a zillion.

So now you know.)

As I was saying, it seems like, well, let’s just say “lots of people” shall we? – have been doing this for a long time. And here’s me, aged forty-something and a bit, supposedly a lover of writing, supposedly “not bad” at it, supposedly would like to “make something more if it”, etcetera, and I have never, ever blogged. I am, as it were, a blogging virgin.

Well, no more! This is it – my first time. And the question I have is this: How was it for you?

Or, at least, that will be my question once I’ve actually made my point. Because, yes, there is one. Not for nothing is this blog called “Is It Just Me?”. For here, dear online colleagues, I shall present to you questions, mysteries and conundrums which puzzle, intrigue or irritate me. I shall fling them willy-nilly into the blogosphere in hopes of enlightenment, entertainment or, at the very least, affirmation that, no, it isn’t just me.

So, as I launch the web’s gazillionth blog, let me put it to you. Today’s question, that is. And it’s this: Why don’t I “get” Twitter? Put another way, why should I tweet?

Once I finally acquired a mobile phone in 2002 (another late start, I know) it didn’t take long for me to “get” texting. When my kids went to university I finally saw some value in Facebook (having been completely flummoxed by the whole MySpace/Bebo craze when they were at school). But Twitter? Not grasped that one yet, no sir. Never mind that zillions of people have clearly “got it”. (Yes, that is more than a squillion). Never mind that one of them is Stephen Fry, whose linguistic dexterity is something of an inspiration to a would-be blogger. And never mind that at least one police force has been tweeting, or so I believe.

Yes, I’ve been to the site. No, I don’t have an account. Yes, I’ve read some tweets. No, I still don’t see the point. I mean, what does it do that you can’t do with a web site / email / RSS feed / Facebook update / nice letter in the post?

Enlighten me, please.