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.