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Water, water

December 19, 2013

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I had that stress dream last night. I was on a beach, a rocky one in the Highlands this time. The tide was racing through an inlet, spume flying in the wind. In the nick of time I realised the water was surging up to reach me where I was standing. Leaping and scrambling back onto the rocks above the beach, I escaped with only the heels of my new black boots wet. A small water-mark on new boots is not the worst of outcomes: I had a laugh with my husband about my near miss as we walked back to the car.

I don’t know what Jung or Freud would say about this but, since I was a teenager, my recurring dream at times of stress has been about high water. (Possibly it has something to do with nearly drowning in an undertow as a child?) When my life was still in flux –  with universities to apply to, exams looming, a thesis to finish, a career to plan, a flat/ job/ life to find – the water was a tidal wave, vast and dark, roaring towards me, swallowing cities. I was intrigued when I discovered that J.R.R. Tolkien used to have a recurring dream of a tsunami too: he incorporated it into his mythology as the drowning of Numenor. Perhaps there is indeed something to the idea of the collective subconscious.

Then came a dream when I found I was able to escape the wave, taking refuge in a wild garden full of animals on a hilltop. (Have fun with that, psychologists.) And ever since, the tide has threatened at times, but never risen to the heights I used to fear. In fact, a laugh about wetting my heels is the most benign version of the dream I’ve ever had.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, I think I’m as relaxed about Christmas this year as I’ve ever been. We are  planning a small, quiet one, which makes a healthy change. No big family shoot to cater for; our thirty-a-side, multi-family Hogmanay football match is taking a sabbatical after thirty years (!) and someone else is cooking Christmas lunch. So the presents are wrapped, the freezer is filled, the cards are sent: and the high tide dream is barely a trickle.

Water has been on my mind for other reasons, however. We have plenty of it, but not where we want it. The mild, wet, windy weather has continued. It is pretty soggy out there, when we have become used to expecting snow for Christmas. A sharp frost caught us all out yesterday morning, turning the roads into a skating rink and causing several of us to have scary skids on the way to school; but the windswept rain is back today.

On the other hand, while there is rather too much water outside, inside the house there is not enough. Our water supply to the castle is in trouble. Ten days ago we suddenly had no water in the taps at all. Eek! Coming a couple of days after the storm that caused a two day power-cut, the absence of water put other problems into perspective. Cold water and candelight is a far more manageable situation than light but no water. We are managing now on a makeshift tank and pump set up promptly by the plumber: the supply, while back, is still depleted however, and our clerk of works is tearing his hair out trying to track down the source of the problem. He thinks that the old pipework must have been cracked by a tree root shifting in the storm. (The last storm, that is: there is another one brewing tonight.) Oh, the joys of being responsible for and dependent on a private water supply. Where do you begin, to find the crack in a network of century-old, underground pipes serving half a dozen homes across several miles? And where do you end, with the work and expense? Yet again we find ourselves weighing up the blessings of this unusual life against the burdens.

But, you know, Christmas in a castle… We really are so lucky to be bringing our children up here, power-cuts, rotten roof, dodgy water supply and all. Today I dragged home some fir branches from the woods, and tomorrow I plan to enlist my elder son to help me begin decking the halls and hanging old glass baubles from antlers. A little less rain and a little more tap water would be good. But if we look like getting our heels wet, well, there are plenty of boots lined up in the hall. We can always put on our wellies.

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Other challenges of life in a castle feature in the post In which I talk rot.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. boyd hussey, (Douglas Ontario Canada) permalink
    December 19, 2013 2:49 am

    I am currently without water but not because of a storm or high water. somewhere in the basement my pipes froze just enough to plug up. it is to warm up over the next days so hopefully they will clear. melted snow is not my favourite flavour.

  2. December 19, 2013 9:40 am

    Loved reading the article and love the idea with the glass baubles hanging from the antlers ;) It would be lovley to see a photo, please!

  3. December 19, 2013 10:46 am

    Oh, those anxiety dreams…. Mine invariable involve either high places (I have no head for heights) or sitting an exam without having revised/ taking a service without robes or notes. :-) I’m glad your plans for a quiet Christmas mean you only got your dream boot heels wet. :-)

    The problems with your water supply are another thing entirely. Our well is only a few hundred yards from the house, but I know how much work it would be to track down a leak in the pipe. The thought of doing so in your more complex system must be a nightmare. i do hope the supply can be sorted out without too much work and expense.

    • December 19, 2013 11:29 pm

      Oh! Yes, the exam one. My ex-teacher husband dreams of losing control of his class; I occasionally dream of sitting at a grand piano, about to play a Beethoven concerto to a packed concert hall, and then realising that I don’t know how to play it at all (not surprisingly, since I never got beyond Grade 5 piano in real life!)

      Thanks for your sympathies over the water supply. At present, who knows: the clerk of works is taking a couple of days off water worries to vent his frustration on a fallen tree that needs chopping up. He always feels better after a day wielding a chainsaw. :)

  4. December 19, 2013 1:17 pm

    I would love to see photos, too! What adventures! I hate plumbing problems, they’re the worst. Good luck!

  5. December 22, 2013 9:10 pm

    Oh, the joys of the unexpected….well, looking back at them.
    I remember walking in to our farm house as it was getting dark because the mud was thick and the last bit of road uphill too slick to risk….and upon arrival there was flashlights and candles…but luckily water drawn from the wheel available to wash up with (pump was electric) and a gas stove along with a wood burning cast iron stove for heat.
    It’s a lot warmer memory now, than then. Your boys will have plenty of smiles at the memories.
    Have a lovely Christmas. We are keeping it much more simple here, too. Seems just as wonderful.

    • December 24, 2013 9:05 pm

      Funnily enough I too remember power cuts in my childhood as an adventure. The boys do usually seem to enjoy them, as long as they are not too long.

  6. December 24, 2013 7:37 am

    I really hope that your water supply is sorted out by now, and that the predicted gales (already beginning) don’t disrupt your Christmas further. I’m sure all your decorations look wonderful! A very Happy Christmas to you all. PS Your dreams are interesting! I am wondering if the flood or tidal wave variety tend to occur at full or new moon?

    • December 24, 2013 9:06 pm

      Thanks, Jo, and happy Christmas to you too! No, the dreams do not seem to have any lunar connection, although it’s an interesting theory and I had to think about when I have them. They are definitely stress related.

  7. January 11, 2014 11:56 pm

    The cheapest way of leak detection in an old, presumably cast iron, system is a mole!
    There are quite a number of firms around that will send a sensor along your system and identify the breakage [or breakages]…
    we had such a leak in our allotment system…
    but didn’t need a mole to identify the source…
    the bog at the surface told all!!
    Someone had cracked the pipe where an upstand to a tap was fitted…
    probably by hitting it with a car or trailer!!

    We were recommended to sleeve the system…
    but that would have proved far too expensive!!
    One of our fellow allotment colleagues was an ex-plumber…
    he put a jacket over the section of 4″ pipe…
    and re-plumbed the stand pipe to the tap into that…
    it meant just digging one hole… not 34!!

    Another method is a “listening” rod…
    a block of wood, turned to form a shallow cup… on the end of a hardwood pole…
    our allotment plumber used one to check the system after he’d made the repair…
    in case there were other, unidentified, leaks…
    [or should that be leeks... seeing it was an allotment!]
    …but he knew what he was listening for!

    I wish you all the very best with yours…
    hopefully the supply drawings will indicate possible first targets…
    Yorkshire Water couldn’t find our allotment ones…
    just the feed to the meter…
    and it turned out that City Hall hadn’t got a record either!!
    Then, the Yorkshire Water engineer who came when we first reported it,
    spotted a different marking on his computer charts…
    and worked out that, although it didn’t “connect” to the meter point, it had to be the layout…
    and printed us off a copy or two!!
    Great guy!

    Hope you have a happy outcome in 2014!!

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