In our flat, we’ve been unlucky with water. Mainly this bad luck has come from above – the flat above us seems to be very leaky – although we’ve had a couple of incidents within our own walls.

First off was when the washing machine in our upstairs neighbours’ flat wasn’t correctly plumbed in – this caused a beautiful mess on our kitchen ceiling, and yet it took them months to admit it was anything to do with them. Then came the time when a pipe burst under their bathroom sink in the middle of the night – water pouring through the ceiling in four out of six of our rooms, and we had to get the police out to rouse them to get the water turned off, as they wouldn’t respond to our hammering on the door. Next was when the owner evicted the unwakeable lads and, while readying the flat for sale, emptied an immersion tank full of water over their kitchen floor – which then filtered through to make my kitchen extremely damp. Most recently, my newest upstairs neighbours have been renovating their bathroom. They removed the tiles from their bathroom walls but then carried on having showers in the tub, not realising that the water would run down the wall, onto their bathroom floor and through my battle worn ceilings. And so I found myself, three days before a potential purchaser came to view the flat (she didn’t turn up in the end) up a ladder with some white emulsion, trying to hide the water marks!

Within my flat we have also had a badly fitted washing machine, which made a cupboard so damp it took months to dry out; a leaky toilet cistern which defied the efforts of several people to resolve; a fault around the seal of the thermostat in our immersion tank and a problem with the overflow of said tank which caused a constant drip out of the overflow pipe outside, at a time when I couldn’t really afford a plumber to sort it out and so it had to persist.

As you can imagine, all of this has made me more than a little twitchy whenever I hear a dripping sound. I have been known to leap out of bed at the merest hint of water being where it shouldn’t (ever since the ‘walk in shower’ effect we experienced in most of our rooms in 2004) and I experience mild panic when I see a drip on the underside of a pipe – is it a leak? Is it condensation? An unexplained mark on the ceiling can hold my attention for hours, as I analyse it and watch anxiously for signs of expansion.

So I can’t imagine how I would feel if I lived anywhere near Indonesia today. Those poor people, only six years after the Boxing Day tsunami which caused such devastation and so many deaths in that part of the world, so far have lost more than three hundred more people to the capricious tidal waves. And also, think of Pakistan and the devastating flooding there. I don’t know whether it’s just that I am taking more notice of these natural disasters as I’m growing older, or whether there really are more of them. I feel the need to give thanks that I was born into such a stable part of the world, and I don’t have the worries about natural disasters affecting my family and friends that others around the world must live with daily.


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