As she slowly got out of the car in the dark of night, placing her feet and walking stick onto the muddy track, Roger’s 91-year old Mother’s first words upon arriving for the holidays were, “This place is a dump.”
I’ll grant you we’d had a lot of rain and the track was a muddy mess, but Crockern could hardly be considered an unpleasant or dreary place. We’ve worked hard over the years, and while we still have many projects with which to attend, we would never consider turning our backs and abandoning Crockern to a waste heap. Rather the opposite, we carry on supporting, improving, and loving Crockern. Even with minor setbacks.
We celebrated this recent Christmas at our house . We’ve only done this a few times, as normally we pack up the car and head to Roger’s sister and brother-in-law’s house for a few days. But his mother recently relocated nearer to us, giving us all an opportunity to have a proper country holiday. Our first at Crockern and we wanted it to be perfect.
T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house we were organised. For weeks, I had made endless lists of food and things to do daily. The fire was lit and the house warm and cosy. The tree was decorated and holiday music and films at the ready. Roger and I had wrapped and placed presents under the tree. The house was neat and tidy. And if we weren’t busy enough, we made a nice stone patio by the front door to eliminate the muddy puddle which was growing from days of rain. No one, not even Santa, would need to leap over the pool of rainwater to enter the house.
But, on the morning of Christmas Eve, while I was packing my lunch to head to work, I noticed the lights throughout the house were flickering. Not a little stutter of light which we sometimes get with the generator; but a full-on disco flashing. It was worrisome. I called to Roger, pointed out the lights and then promptly left for my day. Roger, who was to prep dinner and tire the dogs out before family arrived, now had a new project.
Checking the generator first, the alarm light showed red. There is never a moment when this is a good sign. This is a new generator, making the very idea that it should cause us problems distressing. Roger ran through the usual trouble shooting and resetting steps required. The batteries, invertor and generator were all fine. The lights in the house stopped flashing and the invertor indicator light was back to its happy green colour.
Roger assumed his work was done and began washing up only to discover there was now no water. Ideally our water system works as follows: Water comes from an underground spring above our property, through a lengthy pipe system into a storage tank outside our house. This tank should always be full. We have a pressure vessel and a pump outside, which directs the water through our new whizzy filtration system before working its way to a faucet in the house. While Roger examined the dry tap problem, the lights began their flash dance again.
Why does this happen when we are about to have guests? Early days at Crockern, we had a visit from Roger’s family and we had no water, Internet, or electricity for the better part of a day. We did have builders and new beams being installed at the time, but that hardly off-set the trouble which lay ahead. It was not a winning trifecta. To this day, I remain confident that my arrival from the outside with full watering cans for the toilets was not perceived as a helpful solution despite my best intention.
Roger’s investigation revealed our spring was running fine, and yet the tank was empty. The culprit: The pump into the house was working sporadically. We’ve had compression issues and blockages before, and so this was the obvious place to start. But this is a relatively new pump, so a problem here was just as troubling as that red light on the generator. Using a preferred “go to”, Roger re-compressed the pressure vessel. Still, no water and the lights continued their intermittent lighting. Never a good time for a system shut down, but hours before family arrive for the holidays is perhaps the worst.
I called on my way home to illicit a status update, Roger simply said, and with utterly flat affect, “Not good. We have no water.” When I left in the morning, the lights were flickering. Now I was going home to a house full of people, no water, and holiday expectations running at some unknown level. My heart sank as I knew all too well bringing in watering cans to flush toilets was not especially Christmas-y.
Roger is a determined problem solver. He will read every instruction, watch you-tube videos, make a few phone calls, and seek to solve the problem himself. In this situation, having exhausted every possibility, he was left with no alternative but to make an emergency Christmas Eve phone call for one of Santa’s plumbers.
When I arrived home, I encountered a somewhat quiet and sombre mood, but at least the lights were behaving. In the dark and cold, Roger and Mr. Plumber worked in the water shed to restore water. It was a call worth making as the problem involved a specialised level of technical know-how. As it transpired, the flow return valve was knackered and needed to be replaced. But it wasn’t just the return valve, there was also a little frog – dead I hasten to add — trapped in the return valve.
Six questions: Who gets a frog in their water system? What sort of frog was it? Where was it before it became trapped in our pump? When did this happen? How did it get past our filters? And lastly, Why, oh why? It seems this frog’s destiny was to end in tragedy. To come from the spring, into a water tank, develop from frog spawn to tadpole to frog right alongside our pressure vessel seems a cruel and tragic outcome for a frog. Nowhere to go, it died alongside our flow return valve. This frog was a costly amphibian.
We said goodbye to the plumber and returned inside to our family. The lights were shining steadily throughout the house. Our water was flowing. The fire continued to burn bright. We opened the wine, put on some festive music, hopped to cooking dinner and getting on with the holidays in our little dump. An unfrogettable time.