Trouble at mill

Not an ideal situation
Not an ideal situation

I received a phone call from my husband just as I was about to leave work to collect our daughters on Thursday afternoon:
“You need to come home now! I’ve got my finger on a leak and if I move the house will flood!!!”

Five minutes later I arrived home to find him on his knees on the landing with his finger on a central heating pipe, surrounded by floorboards and the landing carpet in a pile on the bathroom floor. I took over finger-on-pipe duty and attempted to stem the spectacular water feature while he made a speedy trip to B&Q to buy plumber’s putty. While he was out I tried several methods of plugging the hole in desperation (duct tape and cling film combo, knotted tea towel and even waterproof plasters) but, predictably, none worked so I was stuck with my finger on the pipe. I called our two childminders and the preschool to explain why I couldn’t extract myself to collect our children on time and made arrangements for them to stay a bit longer…they must have wondered how on earth I ended up in that position.

So…backtracking a bit…this is what happened.

On Tuesday I was in the middle of the post-work child-feeding-and-housework session when I loaded up the washing machine, pressed the ‘on’ button and…nothing happened. At first I thought the washing machine had broken, but then I realised that the dishwasher wasn’t working either, nor the dryer, microwave, boiler, fridge or freezer! Nothing had tripped in the distribution box and tripping each circuit off and on again made no difference. At this point I started to panic a bit because I thought everything in the fridge and freezer would melt (including the milk I had expressed and set aside for childminders to feed to Bethan while I work). My husband was at work and couldn’t do anything about it from there, so I ran an extension cable from the nearest working socket to power the fridge and freezer and left it at that for the night.

The next day we called an electrician friend and asked if he would have a look at it as the cause of the inoperable sockets was still a mystery. Being a lovely chap, he came over and investigated. Unfortunately, it turns out that the house has a single ring main and the faulty part is likely to be in a junction under the floorboards upstairs.

Armed with this information, my husband (having been awake for 24 hours due to a night shift and training session) took up the carpet and floorboards on the landing and started looking for the potentially faulty electrical junction. He found a possible contender…out of reach under the bath (under the bathroom with laminate flooring which will need to be replaced if we have to take it up). He also found an impossibly complex nest of cables and rubbish in the floor…including three old Bakelite switches.

Treasure from beneath the floorboards
Treasure from beneath the floorboards

Then he put a floorboard back down in the slot it came from and a rogue nail in the middle of the board went straight into the central heating pipe, causing the single jet fountain and the urgent call to ask me to come home.

The plumber’s putty did not work, by the way…we had to keep emptying a Tupperware box underneath the leak and call in a plumber to drain the central heating system, cut the hole in the pipe and fit a new joint in it before we could go to bed that night.

The electrical problem still exists…we are bracing ourselves for the probable news that the house needs a complete rewire when an electrician comes to assess the situation next week. Maybe we should just give up and move into a tent in the garden.


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