Saturday, 5 December 2015

Water... The Elixir Of Life

Our pavement (sidewalk) garden was non-existent for all the years that we have lived in this house and making a garden on the pavement just became part of my procrastinating through life. We live in a cul-de-sac so we don't have much of a sidewalk, just a small area on either side of the driveway. The one side had grass and the other side became a patch of sand with dried cement that a builder who worked at our house at some stage left behind and it was the place that we put rubble or branches until it was taken away. It was also where our water meter and electricity meter is as well as the house next door's meters are. The side with the grass has our gate bell on a pole surrounded by rocks because visitors from the house on the other side, would, 9 out of ten times leave the neighbour's house and hit the pole causing the bell to break. It now remains broken after being fixed numerous times, but now if the neighbour's visitors are too drunk to care about or see the pole for our bell which is not even close to their driveway, they damage their car first.

Taken 29 November 2015

Fast track to 2015 and we have a new Gardener as our Gardener of 9 years went on to greener pastures in November last year. He took over his brother who committed suicide's building business and did us a huge favour. He became so lazy and it was so evident when I could see the new Gardener battling to look busy and find enough work to validate two 7 and half hour days a week working for us. Initially, he and I did not quite click. He also did some planting in Clint's garden and made a mess and I was angry when I first saw the mess. I showed him photos and explained how it should be done. He is not a Gardener, he needed a job as he only has a part-time job as a food controller at a Pizza place three nights a week and our old Gardener brought him as a replacement. He has now worked here for a year and he has definitely proved his worth. We eventually got around to doing the pavement and all we did was take plants from around the garden and plant them on either side of the driveway. It was around April just before we decided to do the bathrooms. I remember that because I was worried about where the Big Waste Bin would go when I the Gardener had just done the garden. We did the side with the doorbell first and took the grass that we removed and planted it on the other side, but he had to first take a pick and dig up the ingrained cement and we had to buy some more grass as there was not enough to cover the area. We also put stepping stones around so the meter readers couldn't say that they couldn't get to the boxes to read the meters.

Taken 23 October 2015

The garden looked so pretty and then I noticed a water leak. Mark checked and saw that it was leaking from the old man next door's water meter. That was around June, but a small barely noticeable leak and the old man said that he had reported it. Each month the water meter readers saw the leak and did nothing about it. Mark showed a supervisor one day and he said he would report it. The leak got worse and I was dreading them digging up my new flourishing garden. The dry conditions in South Africa started getting worse and here we had water running down the road from a water meter and no one cared. I took to Twitter to no avail - praise City Of Johannesburg; Lead SA or Joburg Water on Twitter and you get a response - complain and it is ignored. The water situation really got bad and some areas had no water for 3 days and it was all over the news that children had to write Matric exams and had no water to flush toilets or drink water or wash uniforms and it was in relatively poorer communities where they can't just buy a bottle of Valpre water to drink. I then decided to phone in myself on the Wednesday and stressed the fact that whilst people are without water for days on end we have water running down our street for months on end. On the Sunday morning Joburg Water arrived and I was sad about my garden being destroyed, but the leak HAD to be fixed. It took them 10 minutes to fix the water meter that had been leaking for almost 6 months and my garden was still intact. Our only piece of lush green lawn and flourishing garden. We have even removed some of the plants and planted them at the back of our garden so that the water meter readers can get to our meter.

Planted First - Photo Taken 29 November 2015

Planted about 2 Weeks after other side - photo taken 29 November

You can see how well the plants have grown on the side with the water leak - in a month when the leak became more than a drip and it turned the area into a swamp and the plants just flourished, whilst the rest of our garden is in a very sorry state. We had wonderful rain on the 16 of November for a couple of days then another heat wave and no rain until this week. It hailed and stormed and it was pretty destructive but so worth the drenching that the garden needed.

We may have had floods all over Johannesburg when the Summer rains finally fell for a day or two, but they did not fill the dams and the sight of dying animals and fish, empty river beds and people queuing and fighting over water across parts of the country is very sad indeed. I have become very water conscious because you can live without electricity, but you cannot live without water - well South Africans can live without electricity because we have no option but to be resourceful when it comes to having no electricity - remember johannesburg this time last year. I have cut down on doing laundry, which may not be a big deal for some but I am quite obsessive with doing something as mundane as laundry and I stress if I don't get all the washing done on stipulated days. We do washing every single day and all day long, because I sort the washing very specifically, but since the water restrictions I have changed many of my ridiculously stupid obsessions.

Our garden is really suffering yet our Hydrangeas are doing so well this year. They have shot up after years of battling to take off and they look so beautiful. I fed them Hydrangea food, which is probably also why they are all blue now or bluish purple. Hydrangeas remind me of my maternal grandparents because they had Hydrangeas by their front door - a massive bush of them and they were always so beautiful and my grandmother always had Hydrangeas in a vase in her house. This is the first time I have ever been able to pick flowers from the garden and put them in a vase in the house.

This is also the first time that I have ever had St Joseph Lillies and I love them and I always buy them when I buy flowers when I buy for Clint's room and Memorial garden and on his death day and birthday and get very upset when I can't get them. I never cut the St Josephs to bring inside, I just left them flowering and they flowered for a couple of weeks.

With my heightened conscience of water being wasted, not this past Tuesday, but the Tuesday before I was feeding Garfield and I heard water running and running. I asked Sheila why there was water running/where was the water running, she just said she doesn't know. I checked all over and all the taps were closed so I thought I was imagining it. Mark came home and he could also hear water. When the plumber did our bathrooms, he redid all the pipes in both bathrooms and replaced them with copper pipes, because ours were old and are galvanized (I think). Whatever they are, they are old and not suitable. He also added a connection that we could turn off the bathroom water and still have the kitchen tap working. Mark decided before switching off the main water supply, he would try the water supply switch to the bathrooms and the sound of running water stopped. So it was the new bathroom pipes that had a problem according to Mark and he phoned the plumber who rushed over because the bathrooms were only six months old. What I could not understand was that the cold water worked in the kitchen as did the dishwasher and washing machine (cold water) but not the hot water. Mark said it was because the geyser was empty - huh - how did the geyser empty in 2 seconds!!  Anyway, what do I know! The plumber was all apologetic and knew it was his responsibility and was going to start chopping down walls, but from the outside the next morning. That night the geyser was rumbling and bubbling all night and kept Mark awake and he had to open the switch to fill it up. I don't know why Mark does not know that you cannot turn the geyser on if the water is switched off and the geyser IS empty. Every time we bathed or showered we turned on the water and then turned it off again. The plumber came the next morning and then phoned Mark and said he was going to get a leak detector specialist instead of randomly chopping down walls and tiles. It made sense but it was annoying and the water wastage and the bill we were going to get. The specialist could only come on Thursday. I was mad!!! Thursday comes and goes no word from the plumber and we assume he is fixing his mess. Mark phoned the plumber at 5 and he said Oh sorry the leak specialist could not make it. Mark went ballistic and all the "all trades make mistakes"  was forgotten. He had a cold shower, I didn't, I leave for work much later now so could warm up the geyser.

I kept telling Mark we should phone our Insurance Company in case it is not the plumber's work. I kept telling him it is in the kitchen and not in the bathrooms. I could not hear the water in the bathroom except the normal filling up of the toilet and pipes when the water is turned back on. I was told the plumber is qualified and he also hears it in the bathroom. Well, the leak detector comes on Friday morning and Mark came upstairs to my office and very sheepishly and oh so embarrassed but trying not to show it and said, you better phone the Insurance, because the leak detector said it is ... wait for it.. the hot water line in the kitchen. Mmm wonder why the cold water worked in the kitchen and not the hot water. It also made sense why the new connection would switch off the hot and not the cold - it was in between the tap and the geyser and we were not at home during the day when the bathrooms were disconnected and Sheila just got on with the washing machine and dishwasher.

On Friday, I came home to a half chopped kitchen and STILL no leak found. I could hear the water by our back door and when the plumber came the next morning to carry on digging by the floor by the kitchen sink with a jackhammer, I showed him where the noise was coming from. I was slightly out by about 10 centimeters. It was under the tiles by the back door. A hole spurting out water like a waterfall - who knows how long it was seeping before it just burst.

I wanted a new kitchen for how long, but couldn't bare the mess and inconvenience and now I am forced to get one. The wonderful Insurance that is Standard Bank Insurance will only pay for half the tiles, so we have to have mismatched tiles in the kitchen, because nowhere on earth will you find the same tiles that were in the house since the house was built in the 70's or 80's. Just the week before we were talking about doing the kitchen sometime next year, but after the whole fiasco of it being the bathroom pipes that had burst - according to Mark and his plumber, I said I refuse to do the kitchen - I was enough. Now besides the fact that financially December and January is the worst month for unexpected expenses as we have bonuses and leave pay to pay out and close for what amounts to two weeks in December and two weeks in January with weekends and Public holidays - we can't get anyone to do a kitchen so late in the year - all trades shut down from 10 December until around 10 January. No lie - no one is desperate for work in this really "bad economy" of ours.

The Culprit

It is pointless doing the tiling now and then redoing it when we do the kitchen. We are not redoing half in new tiles and leaving the rest, we are doing it all... at the end of January!!! We are going to have cement on the floor for now and on the walls. We tried to do the repairs as cost effective as possible to salvage the oven and cupboards for now and laid new pipes outside - to save the inconvenience of another pipe bursting because the pipes are old and will burst again. It is also the cost of the water and the wastage of water when a pipe bursts and you can't see it. Standard Bank Insurance does not even take into account that we could have broken down cupboards and the oven to get to the pipes behind it, but instead they have rerouted them.

Now we await the water bill... and take water conservation to another level. Fortunately, we have had lots of rain from Wednesday night and yesterday morning flowers were blooming everywhere. Not only in our garden but everywhere was a haze of purple from these pretty garlic flowers. Not sure what the proper name is but I call them Garlic plants.

So that is our latest drama...

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