Cleaning water

The talk in the pub cheered considerably when news got out that we had no water in the Cottage. It only took the one visit and a quick conversation at the bar with the diviner whose name I had not managed to catch and it appeared that everybody knew there was a problem. And it was one they could contribute to and it was on the doorstep so if a site visit was needed it could be done whilst another pint was being poured.

The first surprise was that we actually drank the water. There were one or two who had assumed that I managed get by on a solid diet of Murphy’s but then the concern shifted to the fact that we would put the clear stuff that came out of the tap and drink it and sometimes make a cup of tea out of it.

‘But feck it is filthy stuff straight out of the tap. Do you not do anything to clean it? How deep is your well? It it isn’t more than a hundred or so feet down there’s more piss than water that’ll be down there. Have you not counted the cows on the hills here?’

‘Before it comes out of your tap it has been there down in the ground and feck alone knows how long it has been there gathering dust. What does it taste like? Does it not have a colour to it? Some of the houses here they have a filter for the water so it is clean before you have a bath or use it to flush your toilet. Feck alone knows why you need clean water for that but there is some that don’t like to flush with dirty water. And you can’t get a good soap up unless the water has been cleaned.’

I thought of the water that came out of the tap in the Cottage. It has a thick brackish taste to it sometimes and it can be cloudy, almost ruddy, in a clear glass, but that normally clears after a minute or so. We have been drinking it for fifteen years now and still seem to be doing okay. But that was when it was coming out of the tap.

‘If it isn’t coming out the tap that’ll be a leak. And for a leak you will need to dig some holes. It’ll be a long pipe you have there so have you got a good shovel in your garage?’


Digging holes

We all knew we were going to be without water for a few days. There was plenty round the corner in the sea but nothing coming out of the tap. The well had run dry and try as we might and no matter what buttons we pressed there was nothing coming out. If we turned a tap on there was a conciliatory grunt of air but nothing further. The water was done.

It took a breakfast and its dirty dishes for us to start missing it. The smell of milk could not be scrubbed away with hot water from the sea. It needed hot fresh water and soapy suds.

The pump in the orchard was working and Joseph Holland had shown us the screw to turn that sent water gushing our around our feet as we stood by it. The water was coming out of the ground but it wasn’t making it the few hundred yards from the pump to the Cottage.

Having talked it over in the pub we had called the number on the big sign on a wall on the drive through Drimoleague

Harte Bros Water Divining

& Well Boring established 1929

The diviner’s hand patted the air as he spoke. He had a pitched voice.

‘We’ll need a feckin’ hole’ he said looking at the distance between the pump house and the Cottage.


‘A feckin’ long hole. If we dig enough we’ll find the leak and then we can patch it up. We may not need to punch you a new well. Digging holes is the best way to do it.’

‘There was a man thought he could do it with food dye. He had more water than he knew what to do with coming out of his well. It was like a feckin’ great fountain so tall it went into the air. All he needed was one of those stone statues and he could have made something of his garden. But as soon as he connected the pump to the pipe to take the water to the house the water disappeared. So he should have dug a hole. But this man the feck didn’t want holes in his garden he had enough of that with the moles and their little black mounds on his green lawn. So he put a pot of purple food dye into the water to see where it came out. Well all of his pipe was fecked and the water was leaking all over his garden and in a week all his green grass he was so proud of had turned purple. And we still had to dig up his lawn to find the leak.’

‘So we’ll dig you a hole and we’ll find you your leak.’

He paused and looked at the ground.

‘And don’t you be thinking that I will be walking up and down here holding some sort of forked stick.’

‘They did a test with diviners. Put pipes with water in under a field and sent them out with their sticks and they walked up and down and dug holes to find where the water was. Then they covered up those holes and they sent some other men into the same field and just told them to dig some holes to see if they could find any water. Well the men who just went into the field to dig and carried no sticks with them found as much water as the men with their forked sticks. So why feckin’ bother I said to myself. Why carry a stick and try and pretend I know what I am doing when all I have to do is dig some holes to find water. A diviner see is a man who finds water. Well I find water by digging holes.’

‘So let us go to the pub and have a pint and see if there is a man there with a digger and we can start at the digging.’

Cooking chilli con carne

Today I have been cooking a vat of chilli con carne. There is a sixteenth birthday being celebrated in a few days time and the celebrations consist of a dozen lads camping in a field a few miles outside of Chester. They will need some light supervision and sustenance so chilli it will be. If I get it right they could all try and re-enact the campfire scene from Blazing Saddles.

The meat in the chilli is 7 lbs of prime mince from Edges all cooking through with vast quantities of onion, garlic, red pepper, red chilli and tomato. I flavoured it with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. I bought myself a good piece of steak whilst I was in Edges although it seems I may have to wait a day or so before I get to eat.

I have also started making some rhubarb schnapps. We have been dilatory with the rhubarb in the garden this year. It has come up faithfully again but we have not done anything with it. Hopefully steeping it in sugar for 24 hours before copvering it with vodka and leaving it in a dark cupboard for a month will make amends.

There is a slight autumnal air in the garden although when the clouds clear and the sun comes out it is hot. I have emptied the potato bag and sorted through the dark earth picking out a couple of dozen pink pototoes. I will have some of those with the steak when I get round to eating it.

In the veg patch odd tomato plants have been popping up. I must have dropped some seeds somewhere along the way. I certainly didn’t plant them. They are heavy with fruit. Hopefully there will be enough sun over the next few weeks to turn them red.

Doing without water

For a place that has so much of it either coming out of the sky or just there is the sea water can be a mighty rare commodity in the Cottage.

All the water comes from a well dug down about 70 feet deep at the back of the orchard. There is a pump in a breeze block container with a rotten wooden roof and the rest we leave to chance. When we arrive we press the green button to turn it on and when we leave we press the red button to turn it off. Once it is on there is a reassuring whir as the water is sucked up and pushed through the a long pipe down the length of the orchard to some indeterminate junction outside the Cottage from where it makes its way inside when a tap is turned on.

For most of the last 14 years that has been the extent of our involvement with the water supply and it has always worked. If it wasn’t working that was because it had managed to turn itself off and all that was required was a press of the green button and service would be resumed.

If the summer was dry then there might be mutterings about the well being low and there being a need to conserve water. Generally all that meant was that I took even less showers than usual and kept myself clean by putting a different t-shirt (not necessarily unworn and very possibly stained) on each day.

But this year there have been dark rumours around the lack of water and a week after we left it stopped altogether. It was off for around ten days before many stroked chins were able to locate the lie of the pipe from the pump to the Cottage and the point where it had come apart.

Time to call Harte Bros Water Divining & Well Boring established 1929 and situated in good sight on the road through Drimoleague.