I should have trusted my instincts and phoned a plumber a week ago when I first noticed our water softener was making strange hissing noises. But instead I believed my husband when he reassured me that it always made a funny noise and that the pipes at the back of the softener, which to me looked unnervingly like wet, crusted stalactites in our very own Wookey Hole, were in fact “just a bit dirty”.
I’ve never really had much confidence in the machine in the first place. We had it installed when we re-did the kitchen about ten years ago. I didn’t understand how it worked. All I knew was that Hubby now and again put salt in it and it was supposed to regulate itself. The fact that my upstairs taps were just as limescaley as the main unsoftened water tap in the kitchen and the shower head required more than just a quick squirt of Cillitt Bang, didn’t really register. But something was now definitely wrong. I should know, I’m in that utility room every day keeping the washing machine and tumble-dryer company! But, annoyingly, I trusted my beloved and accepted that maybe I was hearing things.
Friday afternoon and I am now convinced there is water somewhere there shouldn’t be. Hubby has managed to get away early from work so as soon as he walks in the door at 4pm I thrust a torch in his hand and order him to look a little closer at the limescale caves at the back of the unit. He agrees it doesn’t look too good but instead of ringing a plumber, reading the softener instructions or at the very least getting out of his good suit, he lays down on the floor and decides to pull the softener out a bit “to have a proper look”.
He gets a proper look alright. His actions pull the machine away from the pipes so that water pours out down the back of the cupboard. A few choice words and then a mad scramble to find the shut-off valve. This is in the adjoining cupboard – the “craft” cupboard – in other words a Blue Peter haven of old paint, pipe-cleaners and dried up play-dough. These forgotten items from previous years are tossed wildly over his shoulder as he yells “WHY DO WE KEEP ALL THIS RUBBISH?”.
The valve now turned off, water is still dripping and my darling husband goes into Surgeon mode with me his little nurse running around after him. “GET ME A TOWEL!”, “FETCH A BOWL!”, “NO, A BIGGER ONE!”, “GET MY TOOL KIT!”, “SHINE THE TORCH SO I CAN SEE PROPERLY!”, “MORE TOWELS!” This goes on until he wrenches a side panel off the cupboard to see where the machine’s bypass valve is located. This too is leaking, so no matter which valve he turns, water continues to flow.
It is at this point I suggest it might be a good idea if he actually switches the unit off, as the plug isn’t a million miles away from the leak. He grudginlgy admits this is probably a wise thing to do and gives himself an electric shock in the process. Comforted by this I tell him I’ll call a plumber!
I know it’s the start of the weekend but I ring the chap who has done all our plumbing over the years and, significantly, fitted the water softener. Miraculously he answers his mobile, tries to instruct hubby over the phone, gives up and says he’ll be round in twenty minutes.
My hero on his white charger – well, Ford Transit – appears even quicker than stated and is soon lying down with his head between the boiler and the water softener, doing whatever he has to do whilst I, most relieved, make him a strong cup of sugary tea. Hubby watches the expert at work, nodding with conviction at the explanation though I can tell he is none the wiser. The softener is isolated and then chucked ceremoniously out of the back door. Ten minutes later a new pipe is fitted and all is well.
The moral of this story is that if you suspect something is not right and it involves electricity or water, don’t mention it to your other half, especially if he is not dressed for the occasion. Regardless of not having the necessary skills, a man will “give it a go” to save money and to appear macho. Don’t put the poor soul through the agony – get a man in!