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Over the recent holidays, the Hobbit House was full to bursting with visiting children and spouses. We had plenty of bubbly, an overachieving “solstice bush” sheltering Mt. Giftwrap (doing our part to ensure that Amazon ends the year securely in the financial black), Dr. Who Holiday Special queued up—and no cold water. No kidding. Two of the kids left.

Scottish Water came to check out the situation. I was expecting some high tech equipment to pinpoint the leaks. Instead, three cheerful men took turns listening to what looked like a wood plug mounted at the end of a metal rod. The fantastic bit was that it worked! The not-so-fantastic bit was that it pinpointed the leak as being solidly on the part that’s the homeowner’s responsibility. On a holiday. We broke out the buckets to…er…prime the toilets. The rest of the kids left.

What I thought they would do

What I thought they would do

What they actually did

What they actually did

I used a pot to mark the spot over the leak on the brick patio. Plumbers were duly summoned and—exactly where the pipe-whisperers had predicted—they dug to find a pipe burst in three places. They replaced the pipe, reassembled the patio, and left.

An hour later, we discovered two things. Thing one was that there was no water in either bathroom (including toilets) and thing two was that the only working tap was in the kitchen, where the (surprisingly excellent) pressure produced a flood of water that looked like this:


This time we left too.

They say you can’t go back, but that’s just what we did. We headed back down to our former little Village in England just in time for New Year’s Eve.

[A digression: All my life, I’ve wanted to go to an honest-to-confetti New Year’s Eve bash. 

Back in my university days, I did come close to the New Year’s Eve party when a friend of my sister invited me to a Major Social Event—balloons, live big band, valet parking—at the family’s Lake Michigan shorefront estate on Chicago’s north side. By promising to care for his geriatric cats when he went on Spring Break, I managed to get the one other person on the planet who didn’t have a New Year’s Eve date to agree to come with me.

I never saw the party, but I did spend the next few days with the cats while my date went in for an emergency broken-jawectomy after slipping on the ice as we walked up to the front door of the party. My mother said that I at least owed him marriage after that, but I felt the cats were payment enough. Besides, I think a true gentleman would have refused to get into that ambulance until we’d counted down to midnight and had some champagne.

Sally got champagne, confetti, and a kiss at midnight. And she never had to take care of Harry’s cats…

End of digression…]

Down in England at our former village, the IMG_2117Village Hall needs a new kitchen. Actually, it’s needed one for the past fifty years. At least. As a fundraiser (and one week before the existing kitchen is demolished) they put on the New Year’s Eve party to end all parties—black-tie, live Big Band, catered dinner BUT with the puddings (desserts, to us Americans) supplied by an army of overachieving Village home chefs, everyone linking arms at midnight to bellow out Auld Lang Syne, and a midnight casino (run by the vicar, of course).

It was all so amazing that we (almost) didn’t mind returning to the waterless Hobbit House. Another visit from a compassionate plumber (at holiday rates, of course) saw final repairs to a ball-valve on the tank.

With the big New Year’s Party crossed off my bucket list, and flushed with optimism (sorry, no—I just couldn’t resist), we’re ready to face the new year. Happy 2015 to all!

Nice auld lang syne, Barb!

Nice auld lang syne, Barb!