A cautionary watery tale – part one

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, we have no mains water or functioning well at our finca in Mallorca. When we want more water, we phone our supplier, who delivers a tanker-load into our cisterna or depósito – a storage tank – located on our land a few metres up the hill from our little house. Gravity-fed, the flow of water used to be painfully slow: it took five minutes just to fill the washing-up bowl in the kitchen. When we had visitors to stay, we had to work out a rota for using the shower, flushing the loo, and general tap usage, otherwise the flow would reduce to a mere trickle.

After some time – and once we had electricity – we decided we had to find a solution, and called on the services of the plumbing company in Manacor that we’d used for some other jobs. In fact, we’ve now used this business so many times – usually for plumbing emergencies – that we have a great relationship with the owner, Cito. Whenever he sees us in town on Saturday mornings, he comes over to greet us with hugs and kisses and to show off his much-loved granddaughter, who is usually with him and his wife.

A gravity matter

I’ve digressed slightly. Cito sent his man Pep to look at our problem. He shrugged his shoulders a few times, stroked his chin in contemplation, and suggested that the best solution would be an electric water pump, to replace the gravity-fed system – which might have worked better if we were living on a steeper hill. He rang his boss for a quote, which we reluctantly accepted as an essential expenditure. After a quick trip back to the depot for the necessary parts, Pep was soon back and at work.

It wasn’t long before he was able to demonstrate our new supercharged water flow. As he turned on the outdoor tap, an explosion of cal – the limescale that blights water here – shot out ahead of the gushing water. Apparently our pipes had been well and truly clogged-up (a common problem on this island, where kidneys and water-dependent appliances also suffer the effects of the cal-laden water).

Dig that

Satisfied that our water flow could now blast the barnacles off a Sunseeker’s bottom, Pep packed his tools into his van, then came to shake hands and say adios before leaving.

“Er, what about that electric cable lying across the drive?” asked The Boss, in his best Spanish. The cable had been fed through the shrubs from the new pump adjoining the depósito and across the drive, to the house. When would Pep be back to bury the cable?

“¡Hombre!” the plumber declared, shaking his head. He wouldn’t be. Digging the four-metre trench was a job for The Boss, but – Pep helpfully pointed out – it wouldn’t need to be any deeper than 10cm.  “Until you’ve done it though, don’t drive over that cable!” His words were left hanging in the air as we wondered how we’d get our car out of the drive until the trench could be dug.

And worse was to come . . .

Much more interesting to look at than a water storage tank! Part of our adopted family of cats - photo taken October 2011.

Much more interesting to look at than a water storage tank! Part of our adopted family of cats – photo taken October 2011.

Another tap bites the dust . . .

In all the recent excitement of having our rural finca in Mallorca re-roofed, we were tolerating – rather than tackling – a small domestic irritation. And, like many problems we’ve had since moving to the Mallorcan countryside, it was water-related.

Here be a dragon

When we first moved here, the kitchen was little more than a room containing an old stainless steel sink, a gas-powered fridge/freezer (don’t ever go there), some pine shelves and a small pine cupboard topped with a slab of marble. Oh, and of course there was the gas cooker, which – for reasons you can probably imagine – I christened ‘the dragon’. Who needs eyebrows anyway?

Within a few months we’d sourced ourselves a fitted kitchen, which transformed what would have been Delia Smith’s worst nightmare into something any of Mallorca’s five* Michelin-starred cuisine-producing chefs would be happy to do a turn in. (Oh, I wish!).

We chose a very stylish kitchen sink, with the appearance of stone, and a smart matching tap. Rather expensive but, we thought, you don’t replace such things every five minutes. However, the water in Mallorca is very hard and contains a lot of cal – or lime – and it’s a pesky nuisance when it comes to clogging up water-using appliances, including taps.

Cal claims another victim

In February 2011, the kitchen tap started spewing water everywhere like a fountain in a force 10 gale. We called Cito, owner of the local plumbing firm we’ve used since we bought the finca. We’re such regular customers that Cito treats us like best friends; if he sees us in town, there’s always a frenzy of kissing and hugging. So when Cito declared that our tap was beyond repair, we knew it wasn’t just a ruse to sell us a new one, rather than repair the existing one.

Plumber Miquel Angel knows our kitchen very well indeed

We took his recommendation and bought one that cost more than we really wanted to pay, but were assured that the manufacturer was a good one. The shiny chrome version (alas, the one that had matched the sink was no longer being manufactured) was duly installed.

Water, water, everywhere . . .

Some six or seven weeks ago, we returned home to find a large pool of water on the kitchen floor. We couldn’t blame Minstral, our Birman cat; he’s never yet been caught short on the way to his litter tray. It didn’t take long to realise that the water was leaking from a joint on the tap, running along the back of the worktop, under the dishwasher and then cascading onto the floor. Our very own indoor waterfall . . .

Not wanting any further disruption from workmen, we lived with this situation throughout the roofing job by wrapping a sponge around the base of the tap to soak up the leaking water. Not ideal. On Monday this week we finally called in Cito and, on Tuesday morning, Miquel Angel – one of his employees – came to sort out the problem. Once again, it seemed that the tap was unrepairable and a new one was fitted. The good news is that Cito believes the leaky tap probably had a manufacturing fault, so he’s returning it to the company for repair or replacement. Meanwhile, he’s only charging us for the labour. Now that’s what I call service . . .

FOOTNOTE

Michelin-starred cuisine at Es Fum restaurant in Costa d’en Blanes, Mallorca, prepared by chef Thomas Kahl . . . sadly not for my lunch today.

Yes, you did read correctly: Mallorca has five restaurants with Michelin-starred cuisine. The latest awards were made in the Michelin Guide Spain & Portugal 2013 last evening in Madrid.  And there are also three restaurants with the Bib Gourmand, offering “high quality, affordable cuisine.” The island also has around 60 wineries – a number of which produce stonking prize-winning wines – and a host of products loved by gourmets way beyond our shores. Mallorca is often negatively portrayed in the British tabloid press, but please believe that there’s more to this Spanish island than the resort of Magaluf and its well-publicised problems. The great gastronomy is just one of the many reasons to visit Mallorca.

Pass the ladder, it’s time to get off my high horse . . .