People outside the UK might not know this, but we had some pretty serious weather a few weeks ago. Red warnings and rhyming nicknames have been in abundance (‘beast from the east’ anyone?…) but the majority of the freezing my weather vanished almost as quickly as it arrived, taking London from sub-zero temperatures to our more expected temperate-climate chilliness. Snow days were over, home offices were closed and the water pipes started to burst in celebratory fervour.
We were first alerted to the problem with an impromptu visit from one of our neighbours at around 8.30 on Saturday evening. The conversation spilt into the small passageway into the living room: our upstairs neighbour had found his taps empty and wondered if ours were still operational. My husband made a quick check of the bathroom and kitchen eventually reporting that everything was in working order. Within the next hour, we realised that this was not the case. My husband headed up to the flat above to inform them that they weren’t experiencing an isolated problem. A pipe had obviously burst somewhere in the local vicinity and those of us who lived above ground level we’re feeling its effects first.
Burst water mains are hardly unusual in London – the system is ancient, constantly being repaired ‘on the fly’ and is ill-equipped for the ravages of climate change, but something told me that this time was different. This wasn’t going to be a twelve-hour inconvenience.
I turned out to be right. By Sunday morning seven leaks were reported in my area alone, one adjacent town had been without water for three days while another was starting to experience what we had gone through on Saturday night. This was going to be a long haul.
Now, I want to make the first of these posts a positive one, so I’m going to outline how having the illnesses that I do actually eased the burden of being without running water for three days.
I spend a fair amount of time on The Mighty looking for tips, tricks and advice on utilising things around me that weren’t necessarily created with the disabled in mind and a couple of those turned out to be lifesavers when the taps ran dry. Additionally, another secondary illness (which was diagnosed by accident when I was being tested for something else) added to the relief, in an unexpected way.
My digestive system is sluggish. I rarely wake up hungry and everything I eat just seems to sit in my stomach for ages. Because of that, I would find myself still feeling full by the time my husband got home from work, which would often lead to him heating up or microwaving something pre-made for himself rather than cooking a meal from scratch that only one of us was going to eat. As time went on I saw his fruit and veg intake plummet, making me feel like I was failing him as a wife. Luckily for me a read a ‘listicle’ that suggested that a slow cooker is a great way to prepare meals without having to stand over the pot – so I took the plunge. I know it’s a cliché to say something ‘revolutionised’ a task, but that is truly what happened. I was managing to get two days worth of cooked meals with about thirty minutes preparation, as well as ensuring that The Bear was finally eating more veg. And luckily, for the entire household, I had batch-cooked before the water disappeared meaning that we didn’t have to use our rations of bottled water to make food or spend a tonne of money ordering takeaways. (Washing up was a whole other thing, but hey…)
The prevalence of the No-Rinse products was again something that came about from trying to solve a particular problem. I had been searching for some kind of shampoo product that didn’t require rinsing, but all I kept finding were the dry shampoos that required hair to be brushed immediately after using. As I have long dreadlocks using a hairbrush is pretty much impossible. Thankfully, another Mighty contributor came to the rescue by mentioning products that can be towelled off the hair and skin. Needless to say, I immediately bought a shampoo and body wash combo from Amazon and started using the shampoo instantly. The body wash sat on the bathroom shelf for months – until the water ran out. Although this is not an ideal way to keep clean in the long run, having these products, again, meant that we could conserve our limited drinking water.
So, it turns out I have Bronchiectasis. It’s a fairly uncommon lung ‘disease’ that causes the bronchi in the lungs to permanently expand, leading to fluid pooling inside the lung itself. This means that a simple cold (like the one I had at the end of last summer) can easily turn into a chest infection (which is what that summer cold turned into – and it didn’t leave until the beginning of October..) or pneumonia (I’m still waiting for a moment where I feel well enough to have the pneumococcal jab). Because of the high susceptibility to infections, people with this illness are advised to carry anti-bacterial hand gel for even the most innocuous of encounters – and I really have to thank the Chest Physiotherapist at the hospital for bringing that into my orbit – so there was hand sanitizer everywhere. Even though we had the No-Rinse product mentioned above, we were still very aware that if we ran out we would have to wait for another mail-order delivery, and of course we were diligently rationing our mineral water, so being able to rub a little gel into our hands when we needed to handle things like cutlery took some of the stress out of the situation.
So, those were the chronic-illness created positives from our impromptu ’stay-at-home-glamping’, in the next part I’ll talk about the negatives, which were mostly created by the water company’s subtle ableism…
While you’re here…
Why not treat yourself to some Chronically Awesome Merchandise? The Bad Attitude T-shirt is back along with a host of other items and a couple of new designs, so why not treat yourself?