Christmas at La Chaise was mild chaos. We managed to sit out on the terrace in bright sun for pre-lunch drinks twice. The temperature was in double figures, low but double nevertheless. The Rayburn behaved itself, even getting a little too hot at times. But the famous dishwasher, which is not connected to Bosch Central, went into a sulk and refused to wash glasses clean. So, without support from Bosch Central, I had to work out why, all by myself.
Fortunately all this happened quite early in the morning because elderly ladies will feel quite foolish if seen by guests whilst sitting cross legged apparently worshiping an open dishwasher. The lamp-bulb in the brain lit up and reminded me that this problem had occurred once before. Then it was due to clogged spray arms, top and bottom. I unscrewed the top sprayer and, sure enough, straggly grey threads of lint hung down. Where does the dishwasher get them from? Our tap water is pretty terrible, very hard and occasionally over-dosed with chlorine - but lint? Anyway, there I sat, armed with toothpick and tweezers, pulling long threads of lint from the sprayers.
So, a possible task for this new year is to see whether a new generation of water softeners is available, machines that can be fitted into very small spaces. It has to be installed after the official water meter and just before the house water supply. I looked into the problem some years ago when it was not possible. One bright engineer had pipes running under the conservatory doors, through the machine which would be installed in the anti-room to the chicken house and back again. The following winter we had temperatures of minus 15C, so obviously this was not a good idea.
But there are times when I truly long for softer water – when I am on my knees, on damp grass, scooping out the white gunge that is deposited in the
bac a graisse. Ladle full after ladle full goes into the bucket and then I have to find another home for the resulting muck. Most of it gets hidden under bushes which do not seem to be any the worse for it. Before we had the bac a graisse, the outflow pipe of the septic tank would block, even less fun. When the children were very young and their eczema was very bad, I ran the bath-water through a nylon stocking filled with oat bran. Result, lovely soft water and a ring around the bath that could have been hand-painted by an artist.
Now all at La Chaise are waiting for the first lambs to be born and praying that this season will be better than last. But the betting is that First Grandson will arrive before any of them. He already seems to be doing his rugby exercises.