Home » England, Yeovil » The Saga of the Leak – part the first

The Saga of the Leak – part the first

There was once a town in Somerset in the west of England where a bearded man called Malcolm lived with his young wife, Catriona. The man’s wife, a flaxen-haired lady, was often to be seen paintbrush in hand smoothing a coating of some exotic elixir across the walls within which they lived for she enjoyed, if not the smell, then the feel of the paint as it flowed from her brush and the resultant effect. Despite all this they lived happily together in a house which was blessed with many wonderful features, not least of which were the pipes and tubes through which electricity, gas and water flowed to and fro endlessly, both into and out of the surrounding land, seemingly without effort at all. Without these hidden pipes and tubes life would have been difficult indeed but by using their contents carefully and wisely Malcolm and Catriona were able to do many strange and amazing things and were able to live their lives in warmth and comfort. For example they could talk to others around the world as if they were next door, they could make tea using water as pure as many a mountain stream and they could warm their toes before a fireside glowing hot without the use of coal or wood. All these things were made possible by the pipes and tubes which ran into and out of the house.

Many years ago, when the house was built, there were men who had knowledge of just how these pipes and tubes were connected, of where they entered the building and where they left, men who used their knowledge wisely in constructing such a splendid dwelling but men who, nevertheless, chose to keep their knowledge to themselves. Perhaps they passed on this knowledge to their sons and daughters who, as is the way of things in the land of Somerset, then filled their own heads with so much else that the knowledge became lost for ever. Perhaps the men who built the house drew plans and drawings which described how everything worked, what secret places there were within the house where this pipe or that tube could be found so that water or gas could be drawn off when needed. Perhaps when they buried those pipes deep beneath the house they never expected anyone to need the knowledge they alone possessed as once hidden down under the clay on which the house was built those tubes would forever continue to bring electricity and water to those that lived there, no matter how many years should pass. Who can now tell what these men thought or did for time has passed and the house still stands but the pipes and tubes are older now and access to the wisdom of those who built it is now lost to those who now live within.

So it was that the Malcolm and his lady awoke one day to a strange sound, a sound which followed them about as they passed within the house, a sound which comforted the lady Catriona while she painted the walls but which nevertheless unsettled them, especially at night when the house was peaceful and quiet. To describe this as a hissing sound, high in pitch but its source low in the house, may not adequately portray the noise nor the effect it had on them both for this was the sound of a leak, of a liquid escaping from a pipe somewhere beneath their feet, something uncontrollable and mysterious, out of sight but not out of hearing and persistent in its nature, annoying. Somewhere, they knew, the pure water that provided them with so much comfort and sustenance was escaping, oozing out, and running away into the land beneath them. And of course, not having the knowledge of those who built the house so many years ago, knowledge secreted away or simply forgotten, the location of the pipe with the mysterious hole which was allowing the water to spill away could only be guessed at.

Now this part of the land of Somerset used to be named Wessex and water which flows over and under the land is owned by a company called Wessex Water who allow many different pipes and tubes to pass through the land. Many of those pipes are known to them and the location is drawn on maps and plans so that men can dig down and allow light to shine on a pipe when this is needed. But sadly, because the men who built the houses were secretive or forgetful there are many pipes which are unknown even to Wessex Water. Fortunately however, Wessex men are well versed in discovering lost pipes and they have many skills and machines available to them which enable them to locate a pipe when they need to, even when this is hidden underground. The first of these is the ‘listening stick’, a steel rod a metre and a half long with a cup-shaped wooden piece at one end which is placed against the ear while the other end is thrust into the ground. All leaking pipes share the same characteristic, the whistling and the hissing, which can be heard through the long rod of the listening stick, especially where a leak is beneath or close to a solid structure such as a house. Where the pipe is leaking into the soil away from a house a second and highly sophisticated skill is deployed – the hole. As it happens no modern equipment is needed for this; the requirements are simple. First there is the fork and then the spade. These shamanic tools are placed in the hands of a skilled artisan who is plied with cups of tea until eventually, a hole appears in the ground.

Thus the saga begins, with all this technology available and after many cups of tea and many holes having been dug our brave Somerset couple should reasonably expect to know where the mysterious pipe lies, where the water is running away, where the hissing is hissing from, to have rediscovered the knowledge long lost since the house was built.

But they don’t.

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