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.