Tag Archives: Emergency Plumbers

Hot Dogs and Buckets of Snow

Sunrise/sunset: 01:04/00:24 Daylength: Up all day from today

There were two bank holidays this week, on Wednesday and Thursday. The first was 17th May, which is Norway’s national day. This was my first 17th May as a Norwegian citizen, so perhaps we should have celebrated in style and gone out to watch a parade, but it was raining heavily in the morning when we got up and so we decided to celebrate at home. There was a Norwegian flag in the house when we moved in, so we put it into the flag holder near the front door, then we had a relaxing day and ate Norway’s standard fare on 17th May of hotdogs and ice cream!

John’s girlfriend, Joana, came to stay overnight and celebrated with us and she and John made the hotdogs between them, including toasting the rolls, which I confess, we normally never do, but it did add an extra dimension of deliciousness.

On the evening of 17th May, I noticed a concerning change in the water pressure of the taps. I went to bed, hoping that it was a temporary blip and would all be okay in the morning, but it wasn’t. Instead, the pressure fell further, to the point where the toilet cistern didn’t fill and there was only a trickle coming from the taps. Given that it was still a bank holiday, we decided that we would probably be okay until Friday.

Though it was relatively easy to get some drinking water, I was in something of a dilemma about the toilet. I was trying to work out whether I should walk to get some buckets of water from a stream, when I remembered that there was still a source of water, right there in the back garden. Though most of the snow has melted, there was still a pile behind the garage. And so I went out with my bucket and spade, and for the last time this winter, I started digging snow.

Despite the heated bathroom floor, it took a surprising amount of time for the snow to melt, but when it did, we were able to flush the toilet again, thank goodness!

Friday dawned and then began the chase to try and find a plumber who was working. As you can imagine, with bank holidays on Wednesday and Thursday, a lot of people in all walks of life took the Friday off and the local plumbers were no exception. I messaged a few when I woke in the morning as some of them didn’t start until ten, even on a normal Friday, but I got no response and the ones I did phone didn’t answer, even though it was in their normal Friday working hours.

Fortunately, one kind plumber, Hugo Nordaas, actually rang me back. He was working all day in a shop, he told me, but would come out afterwards. I asked him whether I should continue trying to find someone else in the meantime, and he said yes, but to let him know if I still wanted him to come out. I had barely had time to start, when my phone rang again. Hugo had contacted someone else, who was on their way to me.

The young man who arrived didn’t seem very confident, but he assessed the situation and came up with a solution, which, I think, he checked with a colleague on the phone. I guess I’d better explain a bit more about our water system before going further, because I’m assuming the vast majority of you reading this have mains water, so if the supply dries up, workers magically appear and start trying to fix the issue. There is no mains water, out where I live, despite it being on a main road. Our water supply is private and comes from a “well” on someone else’s land. I hadn’t realised, until we went there, just how far away we were from the water source. I guess my house was built when there were very few other houses in the valley, so building a pipe from another house’s well was still probably cheaper than building a separate well.

You are probably wondering why I have put the word “well” in quotation marks the first time I used it. I don’t think there is really another translation for “brønn” than “well” but it isn’t a well in the way I would think of one. In the UK, a well is dug deep in the ground until the ground water is revealed. Usually it’s circular and very deep. Here in Norway, it’s common for water to be taken from an inlet in a stream or river, and that is what our “well” is.

And so, with thoughts that the long pipe bringing water from the well the house might be blocked, the plumber’s first action was to return to base to collect a pump and some water. He then pumped water back up the pipe in the hope that, if it was a frog or a mouse in the pipe, it would be pushed out of the top end and (hopefully) washed away. I thought, for a moment, as water gushed back out of the pipe, that he had been successful, but after a fairly short time, it slowed again to a trickle and we were back at square one.

The next step, he explained to me, was to go up to the well and check the inlet valve, to make sure it wasn’t blocked up with anything. That was a likely scenario, he said, as there has been so much meltwater in recent weeks. The snow certainly has melted fast this year and there was a lot of it. He was going to go away now, he said, and once I had checked, I should call him back if there was still a problem.

I got into the car and drove along to the house of the well owner. We had been there on Thursday and they had told us their water in their house was running as normal. They had also told us that the well might not be easy to access yet, as there could still be snow. It was also Friday now, and a working day, so I wasn’t sure there would be anybody in. Under these circumstances, which meant it could be several hours before we could get an answer, the plumber going away seemed not unreasonable. Quite unexpectedly though, the young man who opened the door told us that he had actually gone up and checked the well. Everything looked okay with it, he said, the entrance to our outlet pipe included.

I had expected it might be hours before we found out (I didn’t know where the well actually was, so we couldn’t have checked it ourselves) but in actual fact it was only a few minutes. Knowing that the plumber wouldn’t even be back in Finnsnes, I called him and told him the news, but instead of coming back, he told me he didn’t know what to do next and would have to consult with colleagues.

I waited for an hour and a half, but hadn’t heard anything. Given that it was now Friday afternoon and the weekend was coming up, with the thought in my head of having no flushing toilet and only a trickle of cold water all weekend, I sent him a message, asking whether he thought we perhaps needed to contact someone with a camera to check the pipe or even just that he could perhaps come back with someone more experienced, but despite the fact that my phone said the message had been delivered, after another hour and a half, I hadn’t heard anything back.

Had he been older, I might have waited longer, but I can remember being a young vet with not much experience, trying out my limited skills and, on not finding a solution, sending the clients home with something to try, and then booking them back for another evening when I wasn’t on duty, so that someone else would (hopefully) deal with it. I understand that feeling of being out of your depth and hoping the problem will resolve itself, and also the lack of client skills that make it easier not to call with updates, even if you are trying to organise something. I didn’t know which it was, but I thought that if I left it, I might well find myself stuck. It had been almost impossible to find someone earlier, and time was getting short. And so I rang the one number that I knew would result in action, which was the emergency number for the insurance company.

Last time I discussed Norwegian insurance, I raved about how good they were and how much better they were at paying out than UK insurance companies. My faith was slightly shaken after the last time, as they decided the problem with my drainage pipes had happened before I bought the house, and therefore they decided that they weren’t liable, however experience said that they would certainly get things moving and indeed they did.

They provide an advisor, who will get in touch with the relevant people for you. They know all the numbers to call and probably warrant more attention from busy workers than an unknown number. In no time at all, the young plumber was back and this time he had someone from another company with him. Now they had lots of water, which I understood they were going to try to pump through again, which I think they did, to no avail. But having not resolved the problem, this time they set up a temporary solution. We now have an 800L water tank in the garden and a pump outside my bedroom window to pump it into the house. It isn’t drinking water, but at least we have enough now so that we can flush the toilet and have showers over the weekend.

Working through the weekend was probably out of the question. I think most British people will probably be raising their eyebrows at that, but in Norway, lots of things have to wait, and here in the north, the pace of life is much slower, even than in the south west of Norway, where I used to live. They did give me a future outline this time, which is something a client should never be left without. On Monday, the advisor will come out and will hopefully explain more about what’s going to happen. It seems that the likeliest scenario is that there has been some shifting of the earth, which has resulted in the pipe becoming kinked or possibly broken. The plumbers seemed to think it might be necessary to dig up the entire length of the pipe, but I am hoping that there will be a better solution. There must be means for finding where pipes run, other than digging all the way from one end or the other. Hopefully on Monday, I will find out.

But for now, as I said before, there is a pump outside my bedroom window, with a plug leading through the window. I have to switch it off at night, but while it’s on, the window has to be open. I’m hoping that they find a better solution before the first big wave of man-eating mosquitoes arrives.

I guess that living up here, with the extremes of the weather, there will always be more wear and tear on property than in more temperate climes. There’s always a risk, buying a house, but it would be a near impossible situation if I end up with a bill running into tens of thousands of kroner, or worse. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the insurance will cover it. I also go on holiday next Friday and John is going away to do some lambing for the weekend, so I hope that I won’t have to leave Andrew on his own without everything being under control. I will keep you updated as things unfold, but for now, I wish you a happy weekend.

End of Season and Emergency Plumbers

Sunrise/sunset: 08:28/14:33 Daylength: 6hr04min

Yesterday was officially the last day of the season at the abattoir. It’s rather sad to think that the vast majority of the lambs that were born in the spring time are now processed and ready to be eaten, but that is the end result for almost all animals that are bred for food. My job, as ever, is to ensure that the animal welfare during that process is as high as it can possibly be, and also to check that the quality and cleanliness of the meat produced is up to scratch.

Though the season officially ended yesterday, lots of the season workers flew home (including twelve who had decided to desert early in order to get cheaper flights). A quick change of plan meant that instead of being on the sheep production line, as I had expected, I was suddenly free to make a start on all the work that’s been building up while I’ve been busy. Every year, the season overshadows all the other work we do and I guess it’s the busiest time of the year.

It felt good to be making a start on the backlog. Hilde has given me some new tasks at the abattoir as I will eventually be moving there on a permanent basis. As with any other business, there’s a lot of paperwork to do behind the scenes and with my predecessor having left a year ago, and the other permanent vet (Ann) on sick leave, I am in the sink or swim phase of a new job, where things are thrown at me and I have to work out how they are done before a (fortunately mostly reasonable) deadline. That sort of thing can be somewhat stressful, but I can remember, all those years ago as a brand new vet, being thrown into a consulting room with clients when my knowledge of how to do the job was sadly lacking, and that was way worse! Ultimately, I will swim. I always do. Life experience is a wonderful thing.

John’s Triar fence isn’t quite finished. He and I had measured before we began and had estimated we needed 100m of lamb netting, but it seems we were out by a few metres and will need to buy some more lamb netting. I was amazed by John’s expertise though. One of the beautiful things about having adult children is that they learn to do things you never expected them to. Before I married, I was always impressed with the young farmers I had to work with, who were so wonderfully practical and seemed to be able to turn their hands to anything. I can do lots of things, if taught to do them, but often fear messing up (though obviously, reading my own words higher up the page, that doesn’t apply to things that are thrown at me at work!). John reminds me of those young farmers. He has no fear of taking things apart and putting them back together, or building a fence and sorting out any problems that come up. I am immensely proud of the young man he’s turned into.

Here he is wielding a mallet to put the posts in place, banging them down with a post knocker, sawing a notch for the stay (posts that go in at an angle to stabilise the corner posts) hammering in a stay and finally, tightening up the lamb netting (wider holes at the top, smaller gaps lower down). As you can see, he did it all with snow on the ground. That snow is mostly gone again for now, but winter is definitely here.

After we had been working on the fence, John went inside to have a warm shower, while I did some washing up. The washing machine was also on. While I was standing at the sink, I got something of a shock when I found my feet were suddenly wet. We have a dishwasher, but it isn’t plumbed in yet (it needs a new pipe and, you guessed it, it’s on John’s list of things to tackle). This means that there is an uncovered hole in one of the pipes under the sink. Up until now, the water has drained away normally despite this, but now it wasn’t. John also came out of the shower to say there was water all over the bathroom floor. It’s a wet room, so that wasn’t a disaster, but it certainly wasn’t normal either.

Norwegian insurance companies are great. In the UK, most seem to spend their time trying to get out of paying out, but here in Norway, I phoned mine (Gjensidige) immediately, and within a couple of hours there was a plumbing expert, who ran a self propelling hose up the pipes from the septic tank, then put in a camera to see what was wrong. It seems a previous occupier has thrown a load of solid fat down the drains, which has attached to the pipes and not only blocked them, but has done significant damage. For now they are unblocked, but will need to be replaced.

I’m not sure yet whether this is going to involve digging up huge sections of the garden (there might be a quicker fix under the house as the pipe from the toilet is large and still intact) but either way it’s a big job. It may be that it will have to wait for next year, as when the snow comes and the ground freezes, it will become impossible to dig, or indeed to access the “creep cellar” under the house, which is accessed from outside and will shortly be under a metre of snow. Still, for now it’s all working okay and it will be sorted out eventually. I’m just glad we found it early. The person that sold me the house also bought insurance for unexpected things happening after she’d moved out, so I will, if at all possible, shift the claim from my own insurance onto hers, but either way, I feel confident that this will all be sorted out.

Anyway, I have to go. My car has a major fault which is going to take three days to fix (something called the wire harness has a fault) and there’s nobody nearer than Tromsø with the expertise to fix it. I’ll take it today and collect it next weekend. One thing I can certainly say is that life here is rarely boring!