Saturday, 2 July 2011


We Have JoyImage via WikipediaOn the morning of the second day of ArabNet in Beirut back in March, I was woken by a phone call from Sarah. It was a somewhat panicky call. Water was welling up from the guest bathroom floor, what was I going to do about it?

I'm sure I didn't sound terribly supportive in the circumstances, but given I was in Beirut speaking and moderating at a conference, my options seemed somewhat limited. Pointing this out turned out to be the marital equivalent of saying yes, your bum looks totally enormous in that; I mean, why not try something more suited to your age?

Pal Derek was a tad closer to hand and duly hove into view on a white charger as the upstairs of our house slowly filled with water. By the time I had changed my flight to the next available return, he had worked out what was going on. Our landlord had recently had the roof of the villa sealed (it's a semi-detached villa) and the workmen had brilliantly sealed up the outflow, but had left a nice gap around the pipework into our house. This had combined with next door's pump regulator malfunctioning and causing their water tank to overflow onto the roof of the villa. Derek, a hydraulic engineer by trade, estimated something like two hundred gallons had been pumped into our house. It was streaming down the walls in the kitchen, welling up through the tiles in the upstairs rooms and generally flooding the house as Sarah struggled to move furnishings, books and the like.

Villas in the UAE are constructed strangely. The upstairs floor spaces are something like eighteen inches deep and in-filled with compacted sand and rubble before the tiles are laid. The Great Water Disaster meant that the two hundred gallons had seeped into this filling, saturating the floors of the three rooms, two bedrooms and a bathroom, to the rear of the villa. Four months later, the water's still in there and the downstairs ceilings are yellowing as the sandy dampness penetrates the fabric of the house. There's only one way to get it out - take up the floors, chuck out the wet sand and replace it.

The builders are coming tomorrow. We've moved all the furniture, sealed the doors with plastic sheeting and covered our possessions, upstairs and downstairs, with more of the stuff. The entire contents of the upstairs of the house is now in our bedroom, tottering piles of books making the place look like a model of a dystopian cityscape. Why? Because we (well, more Sarah than I - I went to work while she stayed home and endured it) have been through this kind of work before and know precisely how much noise, dust and crap it creates.

It's going to take two weeks or so to dig up the floors, refill them and re-tile them, including rebuilding a bathroom. Two weeks of hammering, tile-cutting and shovelling, workmen trudging through the house and dust filling every nook and cranny. Two weeks of getting by in a covered-up, echoing skeleton of a home while July, baking hot summer in one of the world's hotter places, takes place outside.

Oh, joy.
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Mich said...

Oh noooooo! I can't think of many things worse!! Wishing you and Sarah all the patience in the world and a biiiiig sense of humor :-)

colin winning said...

Did your insurance company not suggest that you contact EPSCO, a Dubai based company specialising in applied structural drying?

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