The most strenuous thing that I was supposed to be doing today was getting my hair cut. I mean, I nearly cancelled the appointment. It’s been in my calendar for two months, and I obviously hadn’t known I’d be sick when I booked it, but there I was vacillating between keeping and and cancelling it because I still feel exhausted but eventually decided that it was a good way to pamper and treat myself and really, it’s a couple of hours of sitting and being fussed over. I could manage that.
What I ended up doing was slinging wet towels all over the living room and running around in wet pyjamas while frantically moving items out of the path of running water.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, as the saying goes – life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
We noticed a very small leak yesterday in the living room ceiling. A pipe running from the attic water tank right beside the boiler in Hawkeye’s room with a big red valve on it was dripping steadily. I didn’t have a plumber’s number handy so I did the first thing that came to mind, which is ringing the guy who services our boiler. A couple of photos via WhatsApp later, and he said that he was at a funeral (don’t ask my he answered the phone in the first place) but he would come out the next day (Saturday) and fix it. Huzzah! Adulting completed.
Sadly, he was in for as much of a surprise as we were as the issue wasn’t a poor join or a hole in a pipe, but a defective valve which cracked inside. So instead of getting ready to leave for the salon this morning, I got a front row seat to a geyser erupting in the boiler closet when the valve failed.
I can laugh about it now. I mean, there I was, in my flip flops and thin pyjamas, throwing towels at the bottom and trying to catch the water in a bucket with the plumber, who showed up just in time for the waterworks, while The Mister is clattering downstairs to shut off the water. An image of the previous day’s leak in the ceiling had me dropping the bucket and rushing downstairs to see water running down the wall behind the bookshelves and cracks appearing in the ceiling plaster right in front of my eyes. Hawkeye is on the couch, distracted from his TV show by the events around him as “Bob the Builder” and daddy are running up and down stairs while mommy is throwing stuff off the bookshelves. Within a minute of me arriving downstairs the plaster started coming down in chunks, with an ever increasing torrent of water. Just as I was shouting at the Mister to maybe shut off the power, the water reached the nearest recessed light in the ceiling, running out of the socket in a circle right on my back and tripping the fuse in the process.
There are towels and bedsheets already on the floor. I spare a thought for the neighbour and run out the front (still in my pyjamas). Lady on the right, possibly affected through the shared wall of the terraced house, isn’t answering the doorbell, but the lady on the left is outside so I ask her if she has old towels we can borrow while I scroll through my phone for the neighbour’s name. I’m on the phone to her while carrying fresh towels back into the house, as the water is running along the floor toward the couch at one end and under the refrigerator on the other end.
“I’m going to get a replacement valve while the shops are still open!” the plumber shouts on his way out the front door while we’re still dealing with the Niagara Falls in our living room. I know he’s right – the water is already shut off, and we just need to wait for whatever’s left in the tank and the pipes to empty, so getting a new valve is the most useful thing he can do right then, but it’s still nerve-wracking to hear the front door slam shut behind the professional. Thankfully, as the plaster continues to peel off, the amount of water cascading down has noticeably abated.
The plumber returns quickly and proceeds immediately to replace the valve. I’m on autopilot downstairs, moving boxes, knickknacks, and IKEA crates onto the kitchen table and counter tops and eventually out on the deck. It might have been five minutes or twenty when the plumber returns downstairs to show us the broken valve. The disc through which the valve is sheared off where it’s meant to be soldered on to the pipe – a manufacturing defect clearly. At some point, The Mister has taken Hawkeye into our room, where the cat is already cowering in the bottom of our closet. I sink down on the couch, contemplating that my bare feet are wet inside my flip flops and the bottoms of my trousers are soaking. Worse though, I laugh when I discover that this whole time I’ve been running around in front of the plumber without a bra with my shirt on inside out AND backwards. I don’t even want to think about the state of my (bed) hair, and I’ve an hour before I’m meant to be sitting in a hair salon, so I pull out my phone to ring and cancel.
I think that’s when I ran out of steam. I joined Hawkeye in our bedroom to change while The Mister took charge of the downstairs clean up but instead of going back downstairs I curled up on the bed facing Hawkeye. He had been remarkably calm throughout this whole clusterfuck so I share a laugh with him while I feel all the adrenaline and energy run out of me. When I eventually make my way back downstairs, the floors are already mopped and the plumber is finishing off wiping down the last remaining drops of plaster-infused water from the bookshelves. The Mister is outside putting stuff out to dry.
The plumber left shortly after, with instructions on what we need to tell the insurance company and the name of a recommended plasterer. The water and electricity are back on. All the doors and windows are wide open to begin drying out the ceiling and walls. And The Mister and I decide it would be good to get the four year old out of the house. And that’s how I ended up leaving The Mister at home to spend the afternoon at an overcast outdoor tea party at a friend’s house, watching Hawkeye bounce around a trampoline with some other kids while the grown ups drank tea and wine and had cheese and home made banana muffins. It was somewhat unreal and far removed from the reality of the morning, but it must have been exactly what was needed because by the time I returned to the house, hours later, I was already able to laugh at myself and count all the blessings.
Because, really, at the end of the day, everything is going to be fine. Yes, I now have a hole in my living room ceiling, but then this is why we have home insurance. And it could have been so much worse! We’ve been dragging our feet on getting the living room painted, so it hadn’t been done yet. And because the living room hasn’t been painted yet, we hadn’t actually ever unpacked our massive book collection. Yes, a few things were out on the shelves, but at the end of the day almost everything that got wet could be dried, and only a handful of books will retain evidence of water damage. The bookshelves themselves are undamaged, and the floors were dried quickly so the floorboards didn’t get waterlogged. Some documents got wet and will dry out crinkly. That’s the extent of the content damage.
Had the leak occurred in the bathroom rather than the boiler, the water would have gone through the ceiling in the other corner of the living room, right down on top of The Mister’s work desk and his computer equipment and the damage would be a different story. And as I sat there in the evening, wiping down items and putting them away, I reflected on how lucky we are to have lost really nothing at the end of the day. I thought about last summer’s wildfires in California, and all those photos I’ve seen of the aftermath of the Mississippi river flooding or the devastation in Tornado Alley. I was picking out damp receipts that got lodged in between some items while others walked amongst the debris of their whole life, reduced to a rubble.
So here I am, back on that same couch this evening, looking up at the hole in our ceiling and I’m surprisingly sanguine about the whole affair, still chuckling over the image of my in my soggy backwards pyjamas. Come Monday, I will begin handling the insurance details, and pretty soon this will be nothing more than the memory of our first home-owner crisis. Until then, I will continue to wrap myself in all my silver linings, because, holey ceiling or no, we have it pretty good.