Tap Dance (Reprise)

It is raining again today. A lot. Continuously. Another day for staying indoors and failing to complete inside tasks. Also another day when there is nowhere for me to dry the sheets and duvet covers that I need to wash in preparation for our visitors who will be arriving on Saturday, and not unreasonably expecting somewhere clean and nice to sleep. You may of course be wondering why, oh why, I didn’t wash them sooner, when the weather was hot and dry, and the whole world was a tumble-dryer on delicates mode. Contrary to popular expectation, this organisational lapse was not simply the result of my customary Can’t Be Arsedness. It was because, despite the fact that I share my life and home with Plumber Man, that well known pipe-and-water Super Hero Extraordinaire, the washing machine has been non-functional.

Firstly, I was avoiding using it because of the overflowingness of the septic tank. Having observed the burgeoning of wetness from the top of the tank one day when the washing machine was emptying, and being now aware that the tank is only supposed to be able to cope with a maximum of 160 litres outflow per day, I became curious about just how much water the machine was chucking down the drain during the course of my preferred wash cycle. So in one of those sad-and-geeky moments that fall upon me occasionally when I forget that I am Only a Woman, I conducted an experiment. I took the stinky, slimy end of the washing machine hose out of the drain pipe, washed it enough to make it bearable, and placed it over one of my many much-loved buckets. And then I stood in front of the machine and WATCHED THE WHOLE WASH CYCLE, so that I could be ready to remove full buckets and replace them with empty ones at the appropriate (and strangely unpredictable) moments. And (here’s where it gets REALLY sad), I weighed each bucket’s-worth of emptyings and wrote down the weight (and thus litreage) on a notepad, before rushing outside to empty the bucket in the garden.

And what I discovered was this. On the number 12 cycle, with no additional rinse setting, the machine uses and throws away 45 litres of water. Forty-five litres! More than a quarter of the septic tank’s daily recommended dosage in 40 minutes. The same as 15 small flushes of the toilet. Or seven and a half big flushes. Not only is it a lot. It is a lot in a short amount of time. In sudden big bursts. And then there is the showering and the sink usage to consider. (Yes indeed… on my next day of geekdom, I fully intend to work out a method for measuring exactly how much water we use in any single standard showering event).

Now as a result of this discovery, and mindful of the need to maintain Mr Septic Tank in optimal working condition (and assuming we do ever manage to solve the non-draining away issues which are currently afflicting him and his surroundings) I have decided that the washing machine will be used as rarely as possible, and that when it is used, it will drain into an alternative cavity, yet to be envisaged and created by Plumber Man. And in the meantime I have adopted the strategy of wearing fewer clothes (over a period of time – not just walking about naked in order to avoid the need for clothes washing), and washing those that really need it, by hand, in the kitchen sink (which regular readers will appreciate drains happily and effectively into our beautiful new soakaway, and NOT into poor, overwhelmed Mr Septic Tank).

But big flat double sheets and big double duvet covers are not easy to wash by hand in a somewhat small kitchen sink. And it had been my plan to make an exception for these exceptional circumstances, and actually use the washing machine, albeit with the hose hanging out of the window to drain decorously straight on to the ground at the side of the house, (making a 45 litre puddle around the roots of the peach tree – which would be no bad thing in dry times). But as we all know, “the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley”, and the suddenly-one-day discovery of a flood in the bathroom served to gang my plan totally agley in a matter of moments.

The endless battle between The World of Water and Plumber Man rages on, and the latest assault came in the form of a leak at the point where the washing machine tap joins the filler hose. After Simon’s discovery of the wayward water (VAL! Come here quick! There’s water all over the floor!!) I located the source of the puddly onslaught, turned off the tap, spent a happy hour relocating the soggy contents of the bathroom, and mopping up the lagoon (inadvertently cleaning the bathroom floor – every flood has a silver lining), and concluded that the washing machine could not be used until the leak was fixed.

But, hell, there was no rush. It didn’t need to be done before I went to England. Maybe Plumber Man could fix it in my absence? But, hell, there was no rush. It could wait until I was back from England. And hell, it’s the weekend, and there’s no rush. So long as it’s fixed in time for me to wash the sheets in time to dry them for next weekend. And anyway… it’s only a matter of replacing the washer. And Plumber Man has a veritable arsenal of washers in all shapes and sizes and materials stashed in his Plumber Cave.

But suddenly it is Wednesday, and a very Wet Wednesday at that. And as I sat in bed with my morning coffee, watching the eternal wet beyond the wet window, contemplating the nearness and the farness of the raindrops and musing on the unpredictable possibilities of global warming, it suddenly occurred to me that, if there was any chance that the sheets and duvet covers would be dry for this coming weekend, they would need to be washed today and spread out to dry in whatever empty space I could muster inside this full-to-bursting House of Small.

Spurred into sudden action by the realization of the rapid diminishment of the time remaining between Now and the weekend, I emerged anxiously from the bedroom, in search of a saviour. I stumbled across Plumber Man, in his daily disguise as The Man Who Sits In Front Of The Computer. “Ah, Plumber Man! I exclaimed happily, “I have an assignment for you. Your mission for the morning, should you choose to accept it, is to fix the leak on the washing machine tap.”

Plumber Man looked up from his computer, his face alight with optimism and reflected screen glare. “No problem!” he said, with a degree of enthusiasm I found both charming and mildly disconcerting. “I will get to it immediately, and have it sorted in a jiffy. If that is all I have to accomplish during this whole morning, I am a happy Plumber Man”.

Within seconds he was banging impatiently at the door of the bathroom, where I was inconsiderately attempting to complete my morning ablutions at the very moment when he had arrived, washer-box in hand, to complete his mission. Plumber Man’s eagerness to do his duty knows no bounds.

But Plumber Man’s arch enemy was not willing to surrender without a fight. The new washer was fitted. The hose reconnected. The tap was turned on. “Success!” declared Plumber Man, as he hastily began to put away his plumbing paraphernalia.

“Not so fast!” replied Little Miss Sceptical. I felt around the hose connector with tentative fingers. “It still seems to be wet”. I dried the connection with some kitchen towel. I wrapped it in fresh kitchen towel and waited a few moments. Sure enough, a tell-tale patch of darkness was gradually spreading throughout the wad of pristine paper. “Maybe it’s the tap that’s leaking” I suggested.

Plumber Man shook his oh-so-knowledgeable head, unwilling to consider the possibility that his mission might drag on beyond the jiffy he had predicted. “It probably just needs tightening” he diagnosed, leaping in to attack the connector with his Special Tightening Tool. The rate of evil drippiness increased. He tightened a little more. The drippiness became a trickle. “Hmmmm” said Plumber Man, thoughtfully. He turned off the tap and unconnected the connector. Water fell mockingly from the loose end of the hose on to floor and various surrounding items. Including the sockets of the electric extension lead. “Maybe two washers will do it” he said, with touching optimism.

But two rubber washers didn’t do it. And a rubber washer and a fibre washer didn’t do it. And, in between each failed attempt, more water joined the ever-growing puddle on the floor. Plumber Man’s slippers became slick with failure. “Maybe it’s the tap that’s leaking” I proffered again, unwinding a whole kitchen roll into the water upon which the miraculous Plumber Man was walking.

Plumber Man disconnected the other end of the hose from the machine, and turned it round. “If it’s the connector on the hose that’s buggered, it should leak at the washing machine end now”. Flawless logic. When both ends were securely connected in their contrary positions, the tap was turned on again. The apparently faulty end, now attached to the machine, did not leak. Hurray! The end attached to the tap did. Boo!

“It must be the tap, then” I stated, with an irritating note of confidence sneaking into my smart-arse voice. Also flawless logic.

“But it can’t be. If it was the tap it would be leaking all the time. Unless it’s leaking from this bit here….” Plumber Man scrutinized the offending piece of plumbery-pokery with his Super-powered eyes, searching for cracks or blemishes or tell-tale signs of weakness. He scurried off to the Plumber Cave to fetch another special tool with which to dismantle the Tap of Contention. While he was out of the room I decided to Be Helpful, and re-disconnect the hose from the tap. Even though the tap was definitely off, the moment I unscrewed the connector, water pissed out all up the wall and over the floor, cleverly missing the bucket that was sitting beneath the tap to catch the drips.

I mopped up the new puddle, and moved the wet extension lead a little further from the water source, carefully avoiding poking my wet fingers into the live holes (fighting against that almost irresistible urge to do so that the very thought engendered). Plumber Man returned and removed the top from the tap. He examined the spindle carefully, but could see no reason why it might be leaking. He reconnected the hose and re-turned on the tap, and then removed the top again, hoping to detect the source of the leak. We waited a moment. Nothing. We waited another moment….. Derrip…… drip…. drip.. drip, dripdrip, drippleippleipple…. “Bollocks!” Plumber Man aptly expressed the mood of the entire audience. “I can’t see why it’s leaking. I think we may need a new tap.” He re-turned off the tap, and started to re-unconnect the hose. Water pissed out all up the wall and over the floor.

“I could have told you that would happen” I said, somewhat unhelpfully.

A scowl darkened Plumber Man’s already furrowed brow. “Well, if you could have, why didn’t you? Not that it would have helped – unless you also have some clever suggestion as to how it might be avoided?” I considered the possibility of making some such suggestion at that point, but instead adopted the wisdom of silence. I mopped up the puddle and Plumber Man considered the situation. He looked gloomily at the clock on the cooker. “At least there’s still time to get to Briconautes before it closes for lunch” he said, deflated at the realisation that his jiffy had already expanded to timeandspace-altering proportions, and pretty much taken over the whole of his morning.

Fast-forward to Now. Plumber Man has returned from his visit to that strange universe known as Les Briconautes, and has assembled the Tap of Tomorrow. It is very similar in appearance to the Tap of the Outside that he constructed on an earlier mission, and is equally glorious in its flawless functioning. The washing machine hose has been thoroughly and finally reconnected, and the drippage has been thoroughly and finally beaten.

And all that remains to be done is for Plumber Man to unravel the mystery of the broken tap (“I still can’t believe it was the tap. I just can’t see any reason why it should leak. It doesn’t make ANY sense!”), and for me to dangle the drainage hose decorously out of the bathroom window, put the sheets and duvet cover into the washing machine, and turn it on.

Hmmph. If only I could be arsed.

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