To be printed 16/12/10.
I've just had my first grown-up domestic disaster. It's amazing, really, after four years of living in properties that can only be described as "squat chic" (all the rodent problems and peeling paint one could ever want, but for £500 a month instead of free), that I haven't had one before. All my pipes have remained miraculously unburst, all my precariously-creviced ceilings intact. I've never been able to call my office with the sound of gushing water and explosions in the background, to say I can't come in because my house might disintegrate. Not once.
Until Saturday, when we get up to find the boiler has leaked a puddle all over the kitchen floor. It takes me by surprise, not least because I've never really thought of boilers as being full of water before. In my head, boilers have always been full of gas. Great, swollen, noxious boxes just waiting to give us all carbon monoxide poisoning like Rita in Coronation Street. But no, it turns out mine has decided to furnish us with a DIY pool instead, the generous thing.
The trouble is that when you have no experience of your own domestic disasters, all your ideas of how to deal with them are based on things you've seen in films. And in films, most likely, I would end up riding a tidal wave through a window, screaming, “TELL BILLY JOE I ALWAYS LOVED HIM”, before a mutant crawls out of the plughole and tries for world domination.
So I flap. "Find a knob!" I shriek, "there must be a knob! Look for one with 'Water Be-Gone' embossed on it." Boyfriend, meanwhile, is relishing the opportunity to prove his handyman credentials. He locates the knob, and triumphantly turns it. The wrong way.
So then the leak becomes a gushing waterfall, the puddle becomes a lake and the flap becomes a full-blown flail. We start a comedy receptacle-swapping routine with the fruit bowl and the top bit of the food processor, chanting, "one, two, three, GO" as we slosh the river across the kitchen into the sink. It feel a bit like a challenge from the Crystal Maze, but without the natty jumpsuits, prize money, or fun. Still, I'm quite pleased with our conveyor belt system - it's great teamwork, not to mention the most action the food processor has seen in ages.
But it soon transpires that we can't keep it up indefinitely. Our arms are tired, for one, and water is probably starting to seep through the ceiling into the flat below. So I phone the landlord while Boyfriend attempts to redeem himself with another go at the knob. This time the water stops.
Several hours, many towels and a visit from some plumbers (“Never fiddle with the boiler,” they tut. “You might get a shock.” “Well QUITE,” says I), the kitchen is habitable again, and we’re fairly smug at our flat-saving, knob-turning achievements.
“You do realise,” says my flatmate when she gets home and we’ve re-enacted the whole receptacle-swapping performance for her, “that there’s a massive bucket right there in the corner?”