Monday, 7 May 2007

Water ballet

Don't get the idea that by mentioning a water ballet I mean that it rained cats and dogs. I think that in the coming months all showers will skip this island, even though the weather forecast is very optimistically predicting rain showers within a few days, with a 70 % chance that it really is coming. When the rain days approach, just like the showers, the bad forecasts melt like ice in the sun. Take today. The temperature really tried to create such a heavy atmosphere that the only way out seemed to be a really good thunderstorm. Well, I counted some spots of water and that was all. The one and a half days of heat wave was gone without a whimper.

The water ballet was inside the house. The boiler slowly burnt out. It was only two years ago that we bought a new boiler. So it was rather new, but leaking nasty brown water from its pipes. It is not that we have a water crisis yet, but I must bear in mind that this crisis will come soon in the high summer months. And anyhow, I always take care about my use of water and energy. So we had to organise a complete new water system these last weeks. The leaking water was collected in plastic water basins so that we could use it for watering the plants and for the toilet.

The toilet is another story. For years we had a leaking cistern. So we always closed the water tap, which was irritating when you forgot to open the tap before going to the toilet and then had to wait 5 minutes afterwards, in order for the cistern to fill. So we installed a new cistern last year, one that looked very good quality. It was only a few days before it started leaking again, just like the old one.

It went through my mind to buy an expensive boiler. Here in Greece these things are not that expensive, but most of them are of such a poor quality that instruments and installation materials do not last long. The Greeks do not know what quality is. Well, that might be understandable knowing that only 25-30 years ago the country was still very poor.

It takes some time to learn the lesson with the boiler and the toilet. It is a fact that here in Molyvos and in Eftalou the water pressure is too high. This means that all materials having to deal with running water don't last long. The water running from the mountains is probably hard to handle and makes leaking toilets and boilers very common and makes the pipes sing, a deafening concert like you have ship's sirens inside your house. A boiler here has a life expectancy in the region of about two years. Plumbers here have plenty of work. Every two years they have to replace the boiler in each house. They also come for a leaking toilet, but there is not so much you can do there. You may even think that this high pressure business is a conspiracy by the plumbers. But when they have to replace the umpteenth boiler, they swear as much as their clients. And let me get one thing straight. The bill for a plumber here, including a new boiler, is no more than just the call out charge for a plumber in Holland.

But there are times when you could cry out loud because of all this bad quality stuff. I don't even complain about the absence of building material shops that grow as fast as trees in Holland. Here, to get all you need, you have to go all over the island.

So under the boiler first there was a little tray. Then there came a bucket and then a huge plastic basin that was filled within an hour. There was plenty enough of water to flush the toilet. It was a real relief when the plumber came with a new boiler. For the next year we'll get water from the tap. After a year we'll probably start again with a little tray and then...

I understand now why these things are so cheap. And why you need these cheap things like a boiler, because you have to replace them so often. Whole books are filled with stories about building a house in Greece. I understand why that could be a nightmare. You not only have to work yourself through an administrative hell of papers, but then there come the workmen that you should supervise. Before you know it they put your house the other way round, make the kitchen in the space where you planned your living room or turn a bedroom into a garage. They put down tiles you never ordered, make the kitchen unit too low or paint your house red instead of creamy yellow.

In Greece you just have to be happy having a roof that is watertight, having a functioning stove to warm you, electricity from powerpoints and water from the taps. Even if that water arrives very enthusiastically and loud. And how long does a handyman last? Well, with all that stress I wouldn't give him that many years...

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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