The five-year-old is just out the other end of another vomiting marathon courtesy of his stomach migraine. The car was repaired after its Christmas breakdown and was full of petrol. Before my husband left for London, he made a tour of inspection to check that none of the tires were flat. He said: "Right. I don't see what can go wrong this time."
That was yesterday at about 11am, shortly before he climbed on his train. At 8pm, I discovered that we did not have any water in half the house - that is to say the family bathroom upstairs and the shower room downstairs. Not a dribble. I cursed and eventually went to bed where I lay awake for most of the night listening to gale force winds storming around the house and banging their fists on the roof. Surprisingly the water problem had not mended itself this morning so after an earlier than usual school run (in case any trees were down) I rang the farmer who owns the barn behind us and the land around us. For historic reasons, the water (that was missing) is connected to the farm's supply. He said he would call the builder who is building him a new barn and make sure something had not been turned off. Unusually there were no workmen about probably because of the severe winds. I rang my husband. He said: "You are kidding." Then he said: "There's a stopcock."
In my experience there is always a stopcock and it is nowhere you know about. He told me it was in the farmyard so I levered open the door into the ferocious wind and staggered out. There was a small metal lid in the farmyard. I went back in and armed myself with a potato peeler and a spatula,levered open the door again and went back outside. I slid the potato peeler into a retangular hole on the lid and manouevred it off with the help of the spatula. There was no stopcock visible. Instead there was a lot of dirty looking water. I went back into the kitchen to get a bin bag. Because I needed a binbag, I had run out. If I had not needed a binbag I would have opened the door under the sink and a roll would have fallen out. Instead I found the largest carrier bag I could from Christmas and went back out. I knelt in the mud and plunged my arm down into the murky water. I thought: "I do hope there isn't some sort of deep sea rat down here." I thought: "This water is so cold my arm is going to drop off." I could feel something but nothing I could turn. I pulled my arm back up and counted the fingers on my hand. They were all still there.
I went back in and rang the local water board for complicated conversations about pipework and they agreed to send someone. Meanwhile the farmer's builder arrived with his builder's mate. I went out to them and the builder told me he had checked the stopcock and turned it a few times, that they had checked the farm and the farm still had water which implied the problem was our end. They went away. The man from the water board arrived in a van, took the plumbing equivalent of a stethoscope to the tap in the kitchen and the tap upstairs. Apparently neither of them have a cough bad enough for antibiotics. He went out to the stopcock and did something to it then came back in. He wanted to talk to the farmer. I said: "The farmer said it's fine. They haven't turned anything off." He really wanted to talk to the farmer or was going to wash his hands of the problem (had there been any water that is). I rang the farmer and let them talk. Their conversation did not get me any water. I rang my husband and let the man from the water board talk to him.That did not get me any water either. The man from the water board went away. Before he left, he said: "Get a plumber". Meanwhile the farmer arrived with his farm manager and the builder. I am not sure what they did with the stopcock - I figured they were grown men and it was their business. It did not get me any water. They went away. Finally the plumber arrived. He went up to the loft, checked the tank, did something to a different stopcock then said: "The pump's not working. Where's the fuse box." I found the fuse box (it is attached to the wall and cannot go anywhere which is always helpful). There was one small black switch which I flicked and there was water.