This Side of the Pond – Feb. 21

By Sarah Pridgeon

I am ashamed to admit that, although I have improved my snow driving exponentially since I was directed to a vehicle with four-wheel drive, the sight of my car at the bottom of our driveway, wheels spinning fruitlessly, is now becoming commonplace.

It would seem that winter does take practice – a fact I have appreciated since The Great Drought of 2011. It’s an incident I’m certain I am alone in remembering; though it was hardly a big deal for those well-versed in practical living, it was my first apocalyptic escapade outside the confines of a city.

At some point during an icy February afternoon, a pipe cracked somewhere in town and all water in our home ceased to run. I cannot tell you when or why it happened, because we only noticed when I turned the shower on and nothing happened… and the adventures began.

4 p.m. An hour before our friends arrived to take us for dinner, I wandered into the bathroom to ready myself. I had unwisely delayed my ministrations so as to be fresh as a daisy for the occasion. Instead, I was forced to wash my hair and scrub myself down with the contents of six small bottles of cold water.

It speaks volumes to my foolishness that hair conditioner was top of my list of needs during a water shortage. I’ve heard that supermodels insist on bathing in Evian, but I suspect they envisioned a more glamorous set-up than mine.

10 p.m. We returned from the restaurant to a barren wasteland. A toilet that couldn’t be flushed, a toothbrush that had to be used dry, thirsty pets staring at empty water bowls. The news was similarly bleak; repairs were likely to take a full 48 hours. We grumbled our way to bed, badly hydrated.

9 a.m. I spent most of the next morning indulging one of my less brilliant ideas: melting snow in a pan over the cooker in an attempt to bolster the toilet tank. Fifteen laborious pan-fulls later, I had secured sufficient water to fill a coffee mug.

11 a.m. The cavalry arrived. My parents-in-law are always generous in sharing their expertise and, by that stage in the immigration process, were fully aware of how ill-prepared their newest family member always is. Dad-in-Law appeared to the imagined sounds of the sun bursting through clouds, bearing a barrel of water for the toilet tank and various drinking materials.

It was a relief to be able to give up my snow-melting efforts, the last batch having defrosted to reveal a tiny, solid lump of dog doings.

2 p.m. My hourly check of the faucets rewarded me with a timid trickle. I took advantage of this by doing everything I could think of involving water, in case it disappeared again. I filled water bowls and pans, washed up the ever-growing pile of plates, scrubbed the dust from the cat and went about my business.

5 p.m. Contrary to reports that it would be another full waterless day before things went back to normal, the trickle had eventually become a proper flow, albeit with a little less enthusiasm than usual. Thanks to folk with far more practicality than I, all was once again well – I was even able to take a speedy shower and rejoice in no longer smelling like I’d started to go off.

I’ve been through an hour or so of water outage many times, but it’s not the same experience in a highly populated area. It’s only ever a small region that goes without, so it’s easy enough to pop to a friend’s house for a shower and a glass of water. You can even take your laundry, if you’re running low on shirts.

I do vaguely remember a more serious event when I was small, but all I recall of it is sipping on a juice carton while feeling smug that nobody could make me bath before bed.

I believe I did quite well under the circumstances, although I hope I would be more practical in my solutions after a full year of rigorous training. Back then, when I was new to the wild world and still thought a snowstorm was something you shook up inside a globe, my contributions were limited to half a tank of toilet water and a nugget of dog poo.