petite anglaise

November 8, 2005

just call me rita

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:47 pm

If you had seen me last night at 10 pm, kneeling on the icy cold tomette tiles of my kitchen floor, head and torso wedged tightly into the cupboard under the sink, rear end protruding, you would have been forgiven for wondering what on earth I was doing.

It all started with the innocent looking cardboard notice which greeted me as opened the lift door yesterday evening, proclaiming that a quarterly reading of the water meter was required. I sighed, and cursed my landlord, and the inept bunch of renovators he seemingly employed to give our flat a superficial and ill-thought out makeover prior to our arrival in December 2002.

The “kitchen”, where the infamous water meter is located, is little more than a glorified corridor, as is often the case in circa 1900 apartment buildings, where the original, respectably sized kitchen was later carved up in order to create a bathroom alongside it. Prior to this, shared facilities would have been the norm.

When Mr Frog and I moved in, the only equipment in our “cuisine équipée” was a sink unit with gas hobs set into the work surface adjacent to the sink, (meaning, helpfully, no space for a draining board). Below the sink, the cupboard my bottom was protruding from. Below the gas hobs, an empty space and the wherewithall to plumb in a washing machine. With a little creative thinking and an ikea catalogue, I managed to create a compact and bijou kitchen out of this tiny space, which works well enough, so long as not more than one person wants to be in there at any given time.

That is, until a reading from the water meter is required.

In order to obtain said reading, one must first reach behind the cupboard under the sink and detach the washing machine hoses. As access is rather awkward, it is advisable to empty said cupboard of its contents. Then, once the water hoses have been disconnected, the washing machine may be eased gently from its housing. Unfortunately, the person who devised and fitted the kitchen unit decided to make it exactly as wide as a standard-sized washing machine, but not a centimetre wider. With the result that my faithful Zanussi “appliance of science” has to be be prised, wiggled and coaxed out of its space with a certain amount of difficulty. Every time the manoeuvre is repeated, the future of said kitchen unit looks ever more uncertain. Half way through said manoeuvre, it becomes apparent that the free standing work surface/cupboard located directly opposite the washing machine needs to be wheeled out of the way, into the hall, to enable the washing machine to be heaved into the space it occupied.

Finally, one must crawl on hands and knees into the space vacated by the washing machine, preferably armed with a cloth for mopping up the water which has undoubtedly escaped from the dangling water hoses, and also a torch, for the reading of the western world’s most inaccessible water meter, located on the back wall. After which the washing machine must be coaxed back into its sheath and re-connected to the water supply/drain.

An operation which takes, on average, twenty minutes, and which can be likened, in terms of the discomfort and physical contortion involved, to the act of kissing the blarney stone.

Imagine, if you will, the fun I had performing this task for the first time, when heavily pregnant with Tadpole. I sat down, panting, to fill in the card which the water company had left on my doormat. Only at this juncture did I notice that the number they were interested in was the one which appeared in the black area. Not the red one which I had just taken down.

Yesterday, however, I successfuly employed Mr Frog’s meter reading method (patent pending), marvelling at how effortlessly simple it was. After a mere five minutes spent with my torso wedged in the cupboard, arm outstretched into the void beyond (praying that it would not encounter any spiders, cockroaches or other vermin along the way) and a few “click click click click beep” noises, the reading was mine, all mine. Not a drop of water was shed; not a female tennis player style grunt of exertion was to be heard.

Pure, unadulterated genius.


  1. Cunning in the extreme. Nevertheless, I am still quite glad I was in Rennes (or rather Nantes) yesterday evening.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 8, 2005 @ 5:17 pm

  2. Well, you weren’t meant to say that.

    You should have said you would have been overcome by the sight of my rear protruding from a kitchen cupboard and are very sorry to have missed it.

    Perhaps if I add that I was wearing miffy pyjamas at the time it will do the trick?

    Comment by petite — November 8, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

  3. I think we all (well, probably several of us) are sad at missing the aformentioned rear protruding from the cupboard and are very sorry to have missed it.

    But what is this marvelous method? Does it entail holding a camera behind the washer and taking a picture at arms’ length, thereby avoiding the pulling out of the washer? Ingenious!

    Comment by joeinvegas — November 8, 2005 @ 5:34 pm

  4. We use a similar method for reading the gas meter, situated a mere seven feet off the ground behind the kitchen door. Our kitchen is of course too small for all but the tiniest of stepladders. Took us four years and several near fatal accidents using small plastic tabourets before we thought of it though. You live and learn, eh?

    Comment by suziboo — November 8, 2005 @ 5:37 pm

  5. Er… That was *exactly* what I meant. As I would probably have fainted clean away, leading to possible serious injury and further clutter in your kitchen. How am I doing?

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 8, 2005 @ 5:46 pm

  6. Did you know that the telephone companies used to use the same technique to prepare everyones bills – using a special camera to photograph hundreds of little meters at the exchanges…


    Comment by Martin — November 8, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

  7. Erm…just a little bit off topic here, but has anyone else noticed how ironic it is that Petite has found an “Englishman” in France to fall in love with? (Well “Jim” sounds very English so forgive me if he’s not).

    Does it boil down to ‘birds of a feather flock together’ perhaps, or even that the beautiful displays of wordsmithery and eloquence in your native tongue touched you to the core, more so than any Frenchman’s attempts would ever have achieved?

    Just sitting here wondering…don’t mind me :-P

    Comment by Kiora — November 8, 2005 @ 6:18 pm

  8. Who’s Rita?

    Comment by cheria — November 8, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

  9. Oh Cheria – so not a Beatles fan I take it?!?

    Comment by Mungo — November 8, 2005 @ 6:33 pm

  10. In answer to Cheria, “Lovely Rita, meter maid” is a Beatles song.

    In answer to Kiora,I think petite was
    actually just impressed by the size of my dic-

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 8, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

  11. Goodness Jim – you’re making us blush!

    Comment by Mungo — November 8, 2005 @ 6:40 pm

  12. neat idea using the digicam to take snapshots.

    Comment by Andy — November 8, 2005 @ 7:24 pm

  13. As soon as I read the title, the song sprang to mind. “Lovely Rita, lala maid…” Couldn’t remember the word before maid. Pathetic!
    That’s a very cool meter reader, when will you (or Mr Frog) start selling it? ;)

    Comment by Joana — November 8, 2005 @ 7:27 pm

  14. Haha, clever! I had to read it a few times before I got the trick but it was well worth the momentary confusion I had in figuring it out.

    Comment by Caitlinator — November 8, 2005 @ 8:12 pm

  15. “If you had seen me last night at 10 pm, kneeling on the icy cold tomette tiles of my kitchen floor, head and torso wedged tightly into the cupboard under the sink, rear end protruding, you would have been forgiven for wondering what on earth I was doing.”

    I love it when you talk dirty…………….;-)

    Jim, if you ever catch her in that position, we want pictures! BTW, thanks for the reminder, I need to read my water meter today……………..

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 8, 2005 @ 10:08 pm

  16. BTW, and you may have already mentioned this, but are you safe from all the unrest in Paris right now?

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 8, 2005 @ 10:14 pm

  17. “In answer to Kiora,I think petite was
    actually just impressed by the size of my dic-

    Hmm…….I thought size didn’t matter to women?

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 8, 2005 @ 10:16 pm

  18. I’m safe. From the riots. And from unwanted photos of my rear being broadcast on the t’internet as my beau does not own a camera. Thankfully.

    Comment by petite — November 8, 2005 @ 10:25 pm

  19. Here in the sticks the water meter is sensibly positioned in the garden wall where Mme Rita from the communes water authority may read it without disturbing us indoors. There is just one minor problem with its location, that is to say it is positioned in the neighbour’s garden wall because the pipe passes through part of his garden. We know exactly where it passes because one Sunday when we were having a party he decided to dig it up while trying to plant a tree. There resulting fountain was quite impressive and produced drunken cheers until the consequences of his excavation were realized. It is amazing how many guests need to go to the toilet when there isn’t anywater to flush with…

    The electricity meter on the other hand, for what is no doubt a good historical reason, is located on the back wall of the garden in a place which is totally inaccessible without a sharp machete

    Comment by Francis — November 8, 2005 @ 10:31 pm

  20. Testing testing. Just upgraded wordpress to 1.5.2 (had been putting it off). If you notice anything awry, please let me know!

    Comment by petite — November 8, 2005 @ 10:49 pm

  21. Well now you mention it Petite, I do have a bit of a cough but I don’t think that’s wordpress 1.5.2.

    Comment by Greavsie — November 8, 2005 @ 11:05 pm

  22. No. It shouldn’t be. I do have the benylin plugin installed, meaning there is a possibility reading could cause drowsiness.

    eeek geek “jokes”. time for bed methinks…

    Comment by petite — November 8, 2005 @ 11:39 pm

  23. Ok, so let’s see now…you have to read your own meter, which is so inaccessible nobody else could ever get to it anyhow. You’ve been doing this for several years on a quarterly basis. Might you have developed the ability to come up with a reasonable estimate to convey to the powers that be, thereby saving your rear end protrudingness for some other purpose?

    Comment by Poppy — November 9, 2005 @ 12:04 am

  24. You’d think so, but I’ve never kept a record…

    Comment by petite — November 9, 2005 @ 12:13 am

  25. ATTN: Jim in Rennes


    Comment by Kiora — November 9, 2005 @ 12:18 am

  26. Oops that was supposed to have been: “loud guffaw” but I suppose the exclamation marks were almost enough in themselves?! :-P

    Comment by Kiora — November 9, 2005 @ 12:19 am

  27. I LOVED this post!
    I’m trying to imagine your French cursing, had you dropped the camera (which I assume you had to hold with one hand, in an awkward position without a clear view of what you were doing with it).
    Kitchens built pre-1950 are just nightmares in any country, aren’t they?
    In the worthwhile cause of literary art, I’m seriously thinking of sending my secret agents in to break your loo handle, set your clocks wrong and detune your television. Only they have strict instructions not to go near your computer! :)

    Comment by Tom — November 9, 2005 @ 2:48 am

  28. Fortunately my water meter is in my basement in a very convenient location, and easy to read

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 9, 2005 @ 7:10 am

  29. I’m just still overcome by the ‘twenty minutes’ the long way takes. A job like that would take me at least an hour. And several drinks. Just once mind, then I would make up some numbers to go in the card. :)

    Comment by Claypot — November 9, 2005 @ 8:48 am

  30. Well, I’m amazed at the response to a post about reading my water meter.

    *Coming soon*

    petite has her chimney swept!
    petite empties her recycling bin!
    petite re-grouts her bathroom!

    Stay tuned…

    Comment by petite — November 9, 2005 @ 10:31 am

  31. I think we should club together and buy Jim a camera in the hope that we might get some shots of the rear protruding!!!!

    Comment by Keith — November 9, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  32. Wha…? After the image formed in the first paragraph, I never finished the rest of the post!

    Comment by twisted chili — November 9, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  33. ‘Petite regrouts her bathroom’….. I’m all agog & can’t wait. A lifetime’s reading of DIY manuals informs me that the most-needed & most commonly occurring jobs are never included! How about ‘Petite replaces her broken sink/bath plug chain’, another of life’s unfathomable mysteries to me. Perhaps you should open a subscription section of your site for this new step in your career devlopment?

    Comment by fella — November 9, 2005 @ 12:24 pm

  34. Practical PA!
    If you can write interestingly about this, you can write about anything.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — November 9, 2005 @ 1:12 pm

  35. I thought I was the only one that had a water meter somewhere totally stupid. Mine isn’t so difficult to get to, it’s just that it is in our neighbors basement !

    But when that flat isn’t rented we have no access and therefore the water company ‘estimates’ the bill. They are VERY generous in their estimates.

    It seems that we are doing requests! I would like:

    – Petite does the dishes by hand. No room for a dishwasher!

    – Petite sews “Tadpole” labels in her daughter’s clothes ready for school!

    – Petite and the Fish finger sandwich (by popular demand)

    Comment by P in France — November 9, 2005 @ 2:23 pm

  36. “rear end protruding” “petite has her chimney swept!”

    I’m sorry but the smut police will have to stop this blog right now because of the examples mentioned above.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — November 9, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

  37. “rear end protruding” “petite has her chimney swept!”

    “I’m sorry but the smut police will have to stop this blog right now because of the examples mentioned above.”

    Wait until we have “petite gets her pipes cleaned”…………

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 9, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

  38. um, if you can get to the washing machine hoses in order to disconnect them, surely you can get a camera (with flash) in the gap also? And take a picture? Or is it not that simple?

    Comment by jango — November 11, 2005 @ 12:59 am

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