Saturday, 14 March 2009

Problems with Plumbing and Plumbers!

Once the abc of accommodation, banks and computers were all sorted, life in the IDEA inevitably settled into a routine of sorts:
  • ritual argument with the lady in the breadshop across the road - she comments on how cold it is and I say, well, not really ....;
  • coffee is usually ready when I get back so, a leisurely breakfast;
  • yoga some mornings;
  • reading groups some evenings;
  • chess club some evenings;
  • chess matches most Saturday afternoons;
  • a walk to the Castro, to the casco vello or even to the Castrelo Park (if we are feeling especially energetic) most days, unless the rain is pouring down.
However, occasionally something happens to disturb the most settled of routines. In our case it was problems which needed a plumber.

Now, Manuel Rivas, in his book "Una espia en el reino de Galicia", says that no self-respecting
gallego considers his home complete if it does not have a gotera - a leak - if not two or three. So, for a while, our flat became an authentic fogar galego.

Hot water in our flat is provided by a gas-fired boiler in the kitchen. We were instructed in its use when we moved in and were advised to switch off completely every night - to avoid risk of explosion?! Well, there had always been a certain amount of rust there but one day we discovered a small puddle on the work-top underneath the boiler. As it kept coming back we contacted our landlady in Madrid via email. She referred us to her grandparents who, conveniently, live next door to us. So we spoke to Don Jose and Dona Maria Luisa.

By now the the
gotera had progressed from an occasional puddle that needed mopping to a regular slow drip that required a bowl to collect the water to a faster, larger drip which needed a bucket. Monday morning began early with an almost incomprehensible phone call from the old gentleman, the import of which was that a plumber would arrive shortly to assess the situation. We waited and waited and ... waited some more! Finally at around one o'clock the old lady knocked on our door, exclaiming, "Disculpa! Disculpa!" The plumber had just told her that he would not, in fact, be coming until Tuesday morning. Having reassured her that we did not hold her personally responsible, we got on with the rest of our day.

On Tuesday morning we got up bright and early, I abandoned my yoga class and, once again, we waited. At around eleven thirty I went to knock on the old folks' door as they had taken responsibility for the plumber: after all their grandaughter would be paying the bill! Once again we commented on how
informales - generally sloppy, lackadaisical, unprofessional - these plumbers were. Had they no pride in their job? No manners? No sense of responsibility? Much good-natured indignation was expressed by all of us. Don Jose went off to phone a different plumber.

Finally, on Thursday - another yoga class abandoned - a plumber came and assessed the situation. He shook his head, tutted in Spanish and told us that he did not
like this kind of boiler! What is more, he felt that it was beyond repair; he could not fix it and it must be replaced. All that was needed now was a decision as to which kind of boiler, what price suited our landlady and so on. By now we had progressed to switching off the hot water supply unless it was absolutely needed so that there was no drip and no need to throw buckets of water down the drain. At least we could follow our conservationist instincts and hope for a more permanent solution before too long!

A week later, another Thursday, I was again waiting, this time to hear from El Corte Ingles. Our landlady's mother (soon we would have met the whole family) had ordered a new boiler for us. Amazingly, El Corte Ingles phoned at nine forty-five to say that they were on the way! By now the
gotera had evolved further. Even with the hot water supply turned off, it dripped incessantly and the bucket needed emptying every few hours. The only way to avoid an overnight flood was to turn the tap on in the kitchen sink and let it run quietly all night long.

Of course, when the boiler arrived it was delivery only! The installation was to be arranged via another phone call to El Corte Ingles to arrange a time. I made the phone call and was told to wait for them to call me back. As if by magic, this happened relatively quickly. Then I was told to expect a call at around midday to let me know what time that afternoon, in other words, any time until about seven o'clock, they could come.

At twelve fifteen I was still waiting. When the first phone call had come earlier in the morning and I had realised that I was not going to yoga as planned, I had thought we might at least manage a long walk as it was a beautiful day. Clearly this was not to be.

Finally at around three thirty, El Corte Ingles rang to say that a plumber was on his way. Great excitement ensued but on his arrival we encountered new problems:
  1. there is a new and very sensible law that says that when a new boiler is fitted, a new exhaust pipe must also be installed. This had not been taken into account when the job was priced and would amount to 83.10 euros.
  2. the new boiler needed to be plugged in and there appeared to be no easily available socket without bringing in an electrician.
  3. the most time-consuming eventually: no-one knew where the stopcock was to switch off water supply to the flat during installation.
After some discussion, we decided to go ahead with the installation of the new exhaust pipe. Who knew how long we would have to wait otherwise? We would pay the fee and claim it back from our landlady: problem number 1 solved!

Having discovered that the work-top could be lifted up just below the boiler, it was possible to make a small hole there, take the cable through and plug it into a double socket shared with the dishwasher: problem number 2 solved!

Problem number 3 had us running round the flat looking for a stopcock. The old couple were not in, so we could not consult them. We moved the washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, all to no avail. We asked neighbours and the
portero: no good. Finally, in desperation we looked behind the kitchen door and found an innocent-looking, rectangular plaque screwed onto the wall. There, behind it, was the elusive stopcok! Well hidden! Problem number 3, FINALLY solved!

That was it. Finally we had a new, efficient, German boiler producing water at our command. No more buckets to empty! No more trying to fall asleep to the sound of a steady plip, plip, plip!

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