Sunday, 26 December 2010

The long wait

In the same way that alcathene, being a good insulator, takes longer to freeze than copper, so it takes longer to thaw. This morning, the temperature crept up to 3 degrees, and stayed there; but it might be tomorrow or even Tuesday before we get a flow of water. When we do, we'll be watching carefully, because although I managed to fix one burst on Christmas Eve, no sooner had I finished the job in triumph and stripped off the old lagging to replace it with new, than I found another burst just three feet away. I only had materials for the first one, so I resorted to insulating tape, plumber's paste and jubilee clips to effect a (nentirely) temporary repair. It will be Wednesday before the harware store which I favour for hard-to-find bits, reopens, so the best-case scenario is that the water comes on, but we somehow have to divert, or catch, the inevitable drip till then.

The store in question is Jackie Brown's Hardware warehouse near Ballynahinch - the kind of place where you can go in and say, 'I need something to join old three-quarter inch copper to new 22mm copper; then that has to reduce to either old half-inch or new 15mm alcathene, I'm not sure which', and Jackie or Peter will say, 'You need this, this and this. If it turns out to be old half-inch, you need this. And this.'

I talked about this glory hole, this treasure chest, in The Blue Cabin:

"An hour later I was standing at the counter of Jackie Brown’s country hardware store, which tends to carry everything, including now-obsolete imperial pipe fittings.

I was relieved to see that it was Jackie’s son, Peter, behind the counter, because Jackie himself can be quite scary. I once wandered round the back of the counter and lost myself for some minutes amongst the racks of tools and ropes and farm supplies, utterly absorbed, and he frightened the life out of me by shouting, ‘What are you doing back there?’ from somewhere behind me. Bloomin’ heck, won’t do that again.

Peter said, ‘What can I do for you?’

‘I need to go, please, from this’ – I drew a diagram – ‘to this.’

Peter took the piece of paper and disappeared into the gloom of the same maze of racking. Every so often he popped out and stood under a fluorescent light holding together two bits of plastic, or a bit of plastic and a brass coupling, or a hose clip and a length of copper tube. He chatted away to himself at high speed.

‘What about that, what’s that, that’s not it. Two of these and that there. No this here. That’s you.’

He clattered half a dozen fittings and a roll of plumber’s tape onto the counter and began to assemble them. Then he took a pencil from behind his ear and used the piece of paper with the diagram to total up the prices.

‘Nine twenty-five. Nine pounds. Thank you, you’re a gentleman.’

‘Thank you,’ I said. He knew his stuff."
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