As soon as it rains, there are cataracts of water everywhere. At last a gutter was fixed above our entrance to the apartment block last year when a complete renovation was carried out. Now, instead of getting wet newspapers and letters from our letter box, they remain dry as the water in channeled to the exit. Of course you could get a free shower if you did not notice, but the water runs on the side out of the way.
This reminded me of an occasion in our house in East London where I grew up. It was built in 1884, had no bathroom and the toilet was outside in the garden. I grew up with it and got used to it, although the spiders that lived outside in the toilet, especially in the summer, were a nuisance. The advantage was I never spent too much time in the toilet.
In Winter it could become quite precarious because our water pipes were all fixed outside All the water from our sink and the rainwater collected and poured into these pipes. It worked, although in Winter now and again the water might freeze, as it did one Christmas, actually Boxing Day which meant we had no water in the kitchen.
This particular Christmas, not only were our water pipes frozen, but the sink was blocked and the water could not escape. There was a remedy for frozen pipes as it often happened. We had something called “lagging” which were torn remainders of material that you draped around the pipes and eventually the ice would melt. Later on Boxing day evening mum went to the kitchen, which was upstairs in our two story slum, to see if the ice had now melted. Of course it had, the lagging did the trick and water was flowing again. Mum had left the water tap open to be able to check. The problem was she forgot that the sink was blocked.
It was then that we realized cataracts do not only occur in nature. Our cataract had filled the sink, overflowed to the ground and was already a mini waterfall as it fell down the staircase. And, of course, it also seeped through the floor. Luckily electricity was not discovered when the houses were built so there was no electric wiring in the floorboards. It was all outside the walls. However, the lower floor was now quite damp. Luckily since grandad passed away, no-one was living downstairs. Of course a certain amount of damage occurred, so mum reported it to our insurance.
Insurance? Yes we had one, but nothing special or comprehensive. The insurance man came and said that walls and floors were not included in the policy. Mum was only paying a few shillings and the only object that could be replaced was an alarm clock, which we did not even realize we had.
I still remember the picture today of mum feet deep in water in the kitchen because the pipes thawed. I must have been about 10 years old at the time. Mum and dad spent all night trying to mop up the water as best as they could. It seems the house dried out eventually and I still lived there until I was 20 years old with mum and dad. Eventually the house was demolished and mum and dad moved to a house in Essex, where they at last had an inside toilet and bathroom.
Living in houses that originated from Victorian London in the East End of London was not fun. I still had the old gas holders on the wall in my bedroom from the original build of the house.
Our street before the houses were demolished.