I used to live in a beautiful old house – above the door it had a date, 1832, carved into the stone. It was sort of semi-detached to a smaller house – I always thought of it as three-quarters detached. As I settled in I decided that I needed the bathroom modernised – and I had a friend who said he knew all about plumbing and he could do it for me. He drew up a plan and started work. He even fitted stopcocks in the airing cupboard.
But, he never quite finished as he claimed to have a bad shoulder – but the bathroom looked nice, new units, new ceiling (hiding the pipes) and, he was careful to explain, a new stopcock in the airing cupboard. He pointed out that to turn it off or on – I was never quite sure which you do when you need to stop the water flowing out of a leak, you had to turn it the wrong way, but otherwise all seemed fine.
All I had to do was to remember to turn it the wrong way when the floods came in the bathroom.
Now, I also have a stopcock in the kitchen. The plumber who came to install my new washing machines asked me where it was – and I thought it might be under the sink – isn’t that where you usually find them?
We spent about 20 minutes looking for it. It wasn’t under the sink – needless to say. And it wasn’t on the wall where the machine was to go. It wasn’t the tap just outside the kitchen in the garden either. We eventually found it, by means of a powerful torch, lurking behind some inexplicable pipes in a deep cupboard, nowhere near the sink. Then he tried to turn it – that took him another few minutes (I wasn’t much help, I just closed my ears).
Even after the machine was in place the connections leaked, that leak ruined the nice wooden parquet-style floor which warped into all kinds of lumps and bumps. But they sent a different plumber to investigate, and all went well.
I forgot all about stopcocks. Do you call them stopcocks, stop taps, stopcocks…until the day I moved out?
We were moving to another country, so as you can imagine, the move was somewhat stressful – so many things to arrange, the pets to vaccinate and transport, passports to be on hand (the pets as well as ours) – you can imagine how I was feeling as we packed up the car + dog for the long journey.
At this point my neighbour came over
“Have you told them about the stopcock in my bathroom? He said.
“No! Why would I tell them about the stopcock in your bathroom?”
“Well,” he replied, “it cuts off the water in your house. They need to know before they move in!”
I thought the whole sale could crash. And that would strand us in a foreign country with a truck load of goods and nowhere to go.
Luckily the buyer was a builder and he wasn’t at all fazed by this piece of news. And, I have to hand it to the lawyers on both sides who just laughed the news off. We moved safely to our new home. But just think, if people had reacted differently, a stopcock could have stopped our house move.
The moral? Get to know your stopcocks and make sure you can turn it on or off when the emergency happens. Because if you don’t, remember that little legal matter called “Sod’s Law”?
And, it’s a good idea to have the phone number of your local plumber easily to hand, as well.
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