Saturday, 9 January 2010

A Morning's Snow

Well, I went over to my mother's house, -she's been away for a while, staying with my brother just north of London. First thing I noticed when I went in, that it was rather cool indoors. So I turned the thermostat up a couple of degrees. Then I thought I'd better check the fridge and chuck out anything that was a bit old.... She's got a tendency to keep stuff opened over-long... So that gave me the need to wash some dishes. Strange. No hot water, even though I let it run a while.
So I went upstairs to look at the boiler. Hm. Low system pressure. I topped it up to 1.5 bar. Still nothing. reset. Ahhhhhhh. I can hear the flue-fan running, click, air pressurs switch proving, click, tickticktickticktick, spark electrode, click, main gasvalve, click.... shutdown! Flashing fault light.... I go get a screwdriver, take the casing off... thinking... open gas test point on the main gas valve inlet, wet soapy finger... no bubbles.
No gas pressure....
Ahhhhh. And there's a basin-full of water too, the plug's out, and the cold tap's been dripping, so there's already a frozen waste pipe somewhere.
CLICK. oh yes. The brain clicks, go look out of the front window. Hm. There's a hole by the gate. Yes, I'd noticed it, assumed it was to do with the new streetlights they're putting in. I go outside to look. Sure enough, there's a gas pipe visible, and a water pipe ohhh and in Margaret's driveway and front-garden next door, about three inches of ice.
And as I stand up, there's a van coming up the street with a gas-company logo. I wave it down, it seems that the morning before, a water main had burst, eventually fountaining through the asphalt, but... at the same time, the ground movement had fractured the gas main, and water had filled it, causing troubles downhill from here.
But, according to them, the gas was back on.
Not at my mother's house, I told them. We're a different department, it's not our job... oh yes. A bit of argument, and one of the neighbours came out to ask how long it would be before she could have heat? given that it was over 24 hours.
I pointed out that my mother was 87, and if her house froze, and pipes burst, how would they feel? Ring your depot!
The end result was that within an hour we had three blue vans, and got it all back working. Nobody'd been told what was going on, and the gas men said "Things have been busy". I pointed out that the street has a high number of elderly, housebound people, and without heat, for a little longer, they could expect hypothermia, some, my mother's neighbour, Margaret, for instance has senile dementia, she wouldn't know to call for help.
All that sorted out, heating re-lit, I decided to go for a walk in the park, lunch at the Lakeside cafe.  This park, I grew up in it, I know its woods and secret places, its history; it was a hunting enclosure, at the time of King William the Conqueror, 1080 ad, and it was old then. In the late 19th century, a councillor, later mayor of the city, put together a consortium to buy the park from the private owners, he very wisely bought up parcels of land all around the estate, and he and his pals became very rich men, all out of creating a new, fashionable suburb, three and a half miles outside of town, around Roundhay Park.

That man whose idea it was to buy the park for the people of the city was alderman John Barran. And here, overlooking the lake, is his memorial, from a grateful populace;
Barran's Fountain.

Back, a couple of million years ago when I was at school, Barran's Fountain was one of the landmarks and waypoints on the cross-country running route. Sometimes, but not predictably so, there'd be a teacher lurking somewhere nearby, with a stop-watch and a clipboard, just to make sure you didn't take a short-cut.
The last half-mile of the route was across open fields toward the school. The head of the P.E. dept would often sit in an upstairs room, with binoculars. If, at any time between rising into view, cresting Hill 60, on the park edge, and arriving at the gym, he deemed you had slowed, weren't putting your all into the run, you'd be pulled aside. All the others would be going into the warm, and a few miscreants would be turned outside again. "Run around the running track, until I tell you to stop". "RUN!" And occasionally he'd forget, and we'd be stumbling and staggering on, an hour after school finished, until some teacher, on his way home would say "what are you boys still running for in the dark?" "Oh no, Mr Warham left half an hour ago, go get changed". And they say schooldays are the best days of your life.

with cheeky Squirrels

and another

A view down over the icy lake

I finished  with a stroll down to the Lakeside Cafe, built atop the victorian boathouse.  (concerts in the park by the likes of The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson paid for the cafe, and other infrastructure to be built)
Not so much a cafe, as a restaurant, I had a very good lunch of braised steak in red wine sauce, with seasonal root vegetables. The food is good, the surroundings a little drab, and the price? Significantly more than a good meal in the pub up the road, but I'd ordered before reading the prices.
What I really missed was my long gone dog, Dill, being in the snowy park made me think of him, how he'd race around in the snow, throwing himself into snow-banks and rolling with ecstatic joy... And how he'd have raced from tree to tree, doing his self-appointed job of policing squirrels. And how we'd have a snowball fight. Me throwing, and Dill seeking to catch and destroy them before they hit the ground.
Ha. Crazy things, dogs.
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  1. a great example of the proof that one person can affect some change, kudos to soubriquet! bureaucracy be damned. you're reminiscing about your dog got me reminiscing about mine... not the demon i have now but my sweet butchie who died this last spring at 19, a snow lover too.

  2. oh yes, a bit of sun in the winter is such a welcome surprise....and NO, school days sucked, sucked!

  3. Nice snow pictures, & it looks like a beautiful park.
    A lot of snow pictures lately in the blogsphere. Not from where I live, though. We sometimes go a few years with out any snow in my part of the Pacific North West. Here, it is currently 60% & very foggy outside.

  4. I loved the story. A good time of your life.

    I wish I could go home again. But I've tried and I can't find it now.

  5. Hello, all, yes, a sunny day, blue sky and powder snow, perfect.
    Snow's been here for about three and a half weeks now, and it's forecast on and off for the next week. Not too thick here, but friends were unable to get to their chosen destination this afternoon, with four-foot drifts across the roads. A route they'd gone up in the morning was impassable in the early afternoon, necessitating a fifty mile detour.
    Jim. dogdays... Maybe I'll post the ex-dog one day. He was my best ever salesdog, when he was a little fluffy puppy, I had a store in a tourist-trap market, "Granary Wharfe"... And just inside, was a basket with four, count 'em, four squiggling apricot coloured sweet as a sweet thing puppies, oh how they snared the kids... and the mummies... and sold pots for me!
    I miss the walks. Having a dog gets you out, moving, exploring, when I go walking on my own, I'm not so motivated to do the distance.

  6. Gary: Hear Hear! And, you know, I can't remember school ever being closed for snow or lousy weather. If the heating broke down, they didn't send us home, they just said "Keep your coats on".
    Thirty kids in a classroom is... ummm 7,500 watts heat output.
    School. I'm glad to be out of it. Last school I was in, I was teaching. Gak. It was not much better than being an inmate.

  7. Rita, it is a beautiful park, two lakes, grassland, formal gardens, a nineteenth century mansion, woodland, rhododendron and azalea walks, a tropical house, full of butterflies, busy parts, and deserted parts.
    No fog here for a long time, but then our temperatures have been below freezing quite a while too.
    This week, we might hit two degrees above freezing, on a good day. Overnights are another story.

  8. Max: Who said "The past is another country"?
    I walk around the area I grew up in, it's all changed. On that walk, I was looking at how the huge gardens of the big houses around the park had been infilled with new build "mews houses", or houses had gone, to be replaced with "designer apartments".
    No cycling signs where my friends and i once raced, no rowboats for hire any more, (not that there'd be much point, in the ice), but yes, I was reminiscing, back to the mid sixties, when that park was a couple of minutes from my door. Trying to hear the sounds, see the faces...


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