You may recall that a tree ate a kite of mine in July '14. This was just one of many such predations, but an atrocity that especially rankled because it was the latest prototype and the only pattern for the 12sq.m/3 bridle Pilots-and because I couldn't effect an immediate reprisal on account of it's being a very large tree and that it was leaning ominously over the next door factory.
But more about this later.
This Xmas we have had a full house; 5 kids, partners and the full 6 grandchildren complement back from various corners of the world. Naturally the grandkids immediately turned the house from order to chaos and their parents set about correcting what they perceive as long standing deficiencies in their parent's living conditions.
One of these was shower head pressure, which has never been great, more of a dribble actually, but not of concern to us more civilised older people who prefer to bathe.
The solution proposed was the on-line purchase of a pressure boosting pump; which was to cost $50, arrive immediately, take only minutes to install and fix everything.
Unfortunately, no local outlets stocked such things- confirming another long standing prejudice our next generation has about small towns in general and this one in particular.
At about this point I went to one of these local suppliers and purchased a suitable boost pump from the large range that they didn't have in digital form but definitely do have in the physical sense. Albeit it did cost $300 not $50, but I figured that in the case of later problems this might be worth the difference- and was wrong about this too.
It took most of an afternoon to install on account of the cramped roof space and time spent foraging for suitable fittings. Senior management was no more impressed by this stuffing around than they had been by my having paid 6 times over the odds for the boost pump.
But what an amazing difference it made; copious high pressure hot water immediately.
Unfortunately the hot water pressure was now so high that it overwhelmed the cold water supply, backing up into the cold pipes.
For 34 years, we'd had a shower that, with continual careful adjustment of the mixer, could sometimes deliver a dribble of water that was neither too hot nor too cold. Now it was either too hot or off.
Oh, and one other problem; the higher pressure has caused a now unstoppable leak somewhere in the wall behind the shower, which is manifesting as creeping sogginess in the living room carpet. It's cool and soothing for bare feet during this hot part of the year, but there are concerns that it may become uncomfortable in winter.
The visiting brains trust then decided that the answer was a "modern" shower mixer valve- one that could better cope with pressure differences- and to this end the current mixer was disassembled in readiness.
Unfortunately the 'Engineering Department'. was then unable to convince 'Senior Management' that the day before Xmas was a good time to partially dismantle the house so as to enable the installation of new pipes and taps - with the water turned off for however long this project took. There was especial distrust of the time estimates, and that there were 6 children under 6 in residence may have also influenced their decision.
But it wasn't going to happen anyway because a visit to local plumbing suppliers established that available mixers are not in any way better able to accommodate pressure differences than the old one.
Belated reading of the pump instructions revealed that the maximum temperature it could accept is 65degrees C which isn't compatible with our fireplace wetback that routinely causes violent boiling in our water cylinder and sends plumes of steam out the roof vent.
Which finally reminded me as to why we had rejected the option of fitting a boost pump every previous time in the last 30 years when we've had whinges about shower pressure.
Turning off the electricity to the boost pump has sort of fixed the problem for now. Shower pressure is back to being nearly what it was before this saga started. Not quite though, because of extra flow losses through the now inoperative pump, which will probably spring a substantial leak and inundate the house when we next light the fire (which could be when we incinerate all the Xmas present wrappings)- and there's still the water leak in the wall of course.
Having bought locally is not going to provide much recourse either as the pump itself is working perfectly to specification.
But these are all problems that can wait until next year.*
I'd like to be able to say that this wasn't a total failure of the engineering department, but it was, so Pete, Robert and I have gone back to our various schemes for saving the world; this being easier than plumbing.
Changing the subject then:
The evil tree did get its comeuppance, err, comedownance?
Though there was a bit of a whoopsie, nearly a lot more than a bit of one actually.
The very experienced tree feller (treefella?) we use was of the view that a strong norwest wind would counteract the lean.
So, and I have to get a bit technical here, when a suitable wind settled in, he cut the scarf (a big triangular cut penetrating to around halfway through the trunk), and was just centimetres short of completing the final top cut when the wind suddenly swung 180 degrees leaving the tree creaking with every gust and teetering towards all the expensive things we didn't want it to land on. There then ensued 30minutes or so of controlled panic while everyone walked around in worry circles at a safe distance wondering what to do. A possible answer was to attach a chain 10metres up and anchor the tree to windward with something large and heavy. However, the largest, heaviest thing we had to hand was a biggish Fiat tractor, but at 3 tonnes against the tree's 10 tonnes or more, it was more likely to become part of the problem. Nor was anyone volunteering to climb the tree to attach a chain- which was only still upright by this time because it hadn't yet realised it had no visible means of support- trees being slow to pick up on this sort of thing.
So the kite came back, battered and ripped, but in surprisingly good condition after 18 months thrashing around out in the elements. It will fly again, even though its niche is rapidly being taken by single skins just 25% of the size and cost.
And we all survived the tree felling, and the plumbing, to enjoy a memorable Xmas and the best Great Race ever.
So here's wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year, and many more of them.
PETER LYNN, ASHBURTON, 1 JAN '16
*Oh shit it's next year already.