I was up later than usual last night and was looking forward to getting to bed. I tottered into the bathroom to clean my teeth and turned on the tap. Nothing came out. I tried the bath tap and the tap in the kitchen with equal lack of success.
I knew there were road works just along from us and went to take a look but the site was covered up and dark. No work in progress.
So we called Thames Water. A mild-mannered and apologetic man answered. He was sorry for the inconvenience, he said. He wasn’t aware of any trouble in our area but he would take a look. He looked and came back with the news that there was testing for leaks and other issues going on in the neighbourhood and that this could cause intermittent loss of supply.
He said that testing took place between 11 pm and 6 am and that we would definitely have water again by the morning. I asked why, if this was a routine matter, known in advance, we had not been warned. I received no satisfactory reply to that.
Barely was I off the phone when with a rasp, a cough and a gurgle, the taps started running, uncertainly at first, then with increasing confidence. The crisis, it seemed, was over.
I thought about this during the day, even considering the possibility of writing a philosophical post about how we become reliant on what seem the certainties of life and suffer anxiety and inconvenience when this overweening confidence is betrayed. I had fallen into the trap of thinking that because the water was flowing again, the problem had gone away.
At 10:05 this evening, I decided to make us a cup of tea. I turned on the tap and… nothing. There was no water; no water in the kitchen, no water in the wash basin and no water in the bath.
I rang Thames Water again. Last night I was put through to a human almost immediately but this evening I had to wait a quarter of an hour. When he responded, it was the same man as last night. He was apologetic – again – but said he was unaware of any trouble in our area. He thought it was possible that testing was still in progress. I drily pointed out that if it was testing, it was well before his stated starting time of 11 pm.
He put me on hold to have a word with his manager. This didn’t seem to help as he was still unable to be sure what the problem was. He assured me we would have water by the morning, a somewhat hollow promise if he could not say what the problem was.
He suggested that the interruption to the supply could possibly be the result of some emergency and that he would dispatch an engineer to investigate. That was where the matter rested: we were without water and Thames Water, nominally responsible for supplying us with water, cannot say why this is.
It could of course be a coincidence and that some real emergency has occurred the day after a planned inspection. That would be one hell of a coincidence, however, and if it is one, then I confidently expect to win a major prize in the Lotto this weekend.
Fortunately, we had enough water in the kettle and the filter jug to make a cup of tea. That is some consolation but only a small one. For now we are unable to clean our teeth, flush the toilet or do any of the the things that require water and that we normally do without a second thought.
What annoys me, however, is the cavalier way that Thames Water behaves. When I suggested again this evening that at least in the case of planned work, we should be warned in advance of the interruption of the supply, my apologetic and mild-mannered adviser darkly hinted that Ofwat had given them the authority to cut off supplies as and when they deemed necessary. Presumably this means that, as the paying customer, I am being out of order for complaining that I am not receiving the service I am paying for and that they cannot tell me the reason why.
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