Just a little fire in the bathroom … » KathSwinbourne

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Nov 17 2013

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Just a little fire in the bathroom …

Sunrise at the farmI slept through sunrise again.

This time I blame Doc for setting fire to the house last night.

And for that story we have to go waaay back …

Doc has a thing about showers. I don’t mean just being clean, but real showers – stand under the running water showers.  Which is all well and good when you’re at home, but a bit of a pain when you don’t have access to running water.

He even likes his showers while out bush camping, so at home we have every type of camp shower available, and some that aren’t.

When I first started camping and coming to the farm with Doc he did all he could to try to make it comfortable for me. That included me being able to have a shower.

The first one he installed for me at the farm was a solar shower. If you don’t know it, this is like a big, rubber wine bladder that you fill with water and then put in the sun for a while so the water gets warm. Then you hang it up somewhere, in our case a hook from the bathroom ceiling, and stand under it for a shower. It’s great – as long as you remember to fill it in time to put it in the sun, or as long as you don’t leave it in the sun too long and get third degree burns from the water, or as long as there is any sun to warm it in the first place.

I reverted to my preferred option – a bucket & ladle, with the water heated on the stove in winter.

Then we moved on to the under bonnet shower. For this one you run water from a bucket, through the car engine to warm it, and then out through a hand held shower head. Again, great. As long as you don’t mind standing in the diesel fumes while you shower, or there are no other people around your car while you have a shower, or that it’s not freezing outside.

Again, I reverted to my bucket & ladle.

I stuck my head around the bathroom doorStill Doc wasn’t satisfied. He kept telling me it was for my comfort, but no matter how many times I said “bucket & ladle” whenever he said “shower”, he persisted.

Then he struck the bright idea of installing a gas shower, operated from the LPG canisters we use for the fridge and stove. A mate did this in his ute when we went to the Cape and nearly blew up his car and our house in the process (don’t ask). But at the farm we have a proper bathroom, with ventilation, so everything would be okay. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before!

Doc has lots of mates who know about these things, so they all got together to discuss it. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, mate. Easy.” they all agreed. And between them they came up with all the bits and pieces he’d need.

Easy. All he had to do was install another water tank for the extra water a shower would use, run pipes from the tank to the bathroom, install a shower head and taps and a cut off valve in the middle to stop water freezing in the pipes in winter (it gets cold out here), install a battery to pump the water because the shower head was above the taps and gravity doesn’t push water uphill, and, of course, install the gas heating system and connect it to both the shower and the gas bottle. And because of the lack of water pressure and as a way to save water he diverted some of the water from the shower back up to the water tank. Simple.

And it worked. We had a shower that you could stand under, with hot and cold running water. And it’s worked very well for the 18 months or so that it’s been installed. Until last time.

We were here two weeks ago and the hot water wouldn’t click in. Doc decided the batteries were flat so this time we brought two new batteries with us. Still it didn’t work and we had no hot water in the shower.

So he decided to pull the water heater apart and fix it.

He ensconced himself in the bathroom while I sat in front of the fire reading (as dictated by our gendered division of labour). After a time he came in and sat down with me, brooding.

“It’s not working” he muttered “If I do this, then run this there, [no, I wasn’t really listening] then I should be able to work around that, and bodge up something else.”

So off he went again, while I cooked dinner.

Surrounded by toolsI poked my head around the bathroom door and saw him surrounded by tools and wires. “Dinner will only be a couple of minutes.”  I said and retreated back to the kitchen

Dinner was ready and he still hadn’t emerged. A few minutes later I decided to go and see how long he’d be.

I stuck my head around the bathroom door again and there was Doc, head down, surrounded by tools. And there was the gas water heater with flames coming out of the top.

“Aah, it’s on fire.” I said

“What?” he asked looking up. Then he stood up, seemingly in slow motion, as the flames got bigger and thick black smoke started filling the room. “Get the fire extinguisher.”

“Fire extinguisher?” I thought to myself “Do we have a fire extinguisher? Where is it?” Then I remembered. It’s on the kitchen wall, over the bench where I prepare food every day, and where it’s been every time I’ve been here for the last4 years.

“Just pull it off the wall.” said Doc. So in one fluid motion I walked into the kitchen, grabbed the fire extinguisher, and walked back to the bathroom. Or at least that was the plan. I pulled the fire extinguisher and nothing happened.

My painted bathroom - with a streak of soot“Shit” I said as I noticed it was clamped to the wall and I had to find the bit to undo it. Meanwhile, the black smoke reached the kitchen as I fumbled around the sides of the extinguisher. A tip here – it’s not enough to have emergency equipment, you need to know how to use it as well, and access it.

All this seemed to be happening very slowly but in reality took less than a minute from me noticing the first flames to getting the extinguisher back to the bathroom and Doc putting out the fire. It was out before it caused any damage, but not before it sent a line of thick black soot up the bathroom wall that I spent days scrubbing and painting last summer.

The house is still standing, and apart from the soot up the wall and on the ceiling the bathroom is still in one piece. But we don’t have a shower any more.

Bucket & ladle anyone?

 

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